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Dealing with a hothead? Keep it cool

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

From the ranting heard at political protests and on reality TV, it’s clear these are angry times. The problem is that many of us don’t know how to effectively handle an angry ranter when confronted with one.

We can learn much from customer service professionals, who have honed their skills in defusing a hothead—and not taking it personally.

Their tips:

Show “emotional leadership” in responding, says Donna Earl, owner of a customer service training and management company.

Acknowledge the customer’s emotions, listen with warmth and empathy, and apologize, even though you didn’t create the problem. Say things like, “We’re sorry this happened,” she says.

After the person has calmed down, focus on problem-solving and confidently promise that you’ll try to help.

Take consistent, intentional steps to control your own emotions. Looking at the ceiling, relaxing your breathing, gazing at an eye-level photo of your family on vacation and tracing figure-eights in the air with your eyes all have a calming effect.

What doesn’t work: Hitting the “mute” button and screaming back.

Don’t let others’ anger infringe on your home life. Set up triggers for letting go of stress at the end of a workday.

One couple in Salt Lake City, both of whom work in customer service, found that daily stress was spilling into their evenings. So they made a pact to stop talking about work the minute they pulled into their driveway. Instead, they go biking or rock-climbing to relax.

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