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Thanks to career intelligence.com for the photo.

Thanks to career intelligence.com for the photo.

Today I was in Staples at the checkout counter. (You know, no matter how “enlightened” you are, there are times when someone gets the best of you.)

The salesclerk asked  the customer if he wanted a bag and the customer went off. “Doesn’t every customer get a bag?” he asked. Next he got into it with the debit machine. It was too slow for him. The clerk was cool, but I was beginning to get really annoyed. I would have loved to have told him to shove off. We can’t expect salespeople to know how to handle angry customers but he did a great job.

Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Before you know it, your “button” has been pushed, and suddenly you wish you could eat your words. It’s tempting to want to preserve your good name or make statements to defend yourself. It’s only natural but there are more strategic ways to handle these encounters.

Here are five ways to stay ahead of someone’s anger.

First, take a deep breath and keep your thoughts to yourself. You don’t have to answer immediately. I know it sounds a bit simplistic but why make it complicated? You will thank yourself immediately. I know this doesn’t sound easy, but it really is. Once you take a deep breath it gives you a moment to respond by asking the right questions not responding to the allegations. Sure you have to “think about on your feet” but it’s something we should all learn. Every time you respond to these comments, you have acknowledged that there’s probably some truth to them. Most likely, they’re true for the person slinging the mud, but why must they be to you?

Get one step ahead of the argument. You do this by asking for an example of the behavior they’re accusing you of. This forces them to think and gives you more time to relax and format your response. When this happens you are also in a better position to evaluate the rationality of the accusation.

Why not be receptive to suggestions as to how you can address their concerns. Why not ask, what have I to lose? It shows you’re willing to learn. Just the fact that you are willing to learn will dispel their anger. Don’t be afraid to listen to what is being said, not how it feels. When our feelings get attacked, we go on the defense.

Shove your indignant feelings aside and be inquisitive. Remember, the person that asks questions is in control. The minute you start answering questions, you’re on the wrong side of the argument. Try to understand the allegations on a higher level are if you were defending someone else.

If someone is really angry, take the deep breath and ask if you can start over. This allows the other person to also back in control. Remember they are angry because they are also feeling threatened. Many people aren’t logical and when they’re upset they only know how to express themselves on an emotional level. It’s not personal. #trainingsalespeople #controlling anger