How to Deal with Ticked Off People


We’ve all been there – a client calls and they are really, really ticked; your boss calls you into his office and you can literally see the steam coming out of his ears; your partner is spitting nails… it doesn’t really matter if it is a spouse, business partner, friend, or a co-worker in a perpetually grumpy, negative mood. These folks and situations can easily ruin your day, spike your blood pressure, and even make your job (or home) a place you no longer want to be. Life gets a whole lot better when we learn to deal with them on our own terms.

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control. – Tom Landry

So what do you do when you see Ms. Smith coming through the door, sparks in her eyes, ready to chew you out with her complaint of the week? We all have a “default” response to these type events and people and they usually fall into two categories.

What’s YOUR response?

1) Prepare for battle – get ready to return anger for anger.

2) Check out all the EXIT signs and prepare to run or sputter apologies.

3) None of the above.

The correct answer is #3. While it is easy to respond to anger with anger we all know that’s not the solution. Finding the best escape route or stammering out how sorry you are isn’t any better in the long run (although you may keep your job longer than those who chose option #1). You need to stay in control, respond calmly and with empathy. Just think of yourself as a CSI Negotiator talking someone off the ledge. Easy, right? Well, no, but if you handle it right, you can build a positive relationship and reduce everyone’s stress in the process. And yes, you can train yourself to respond this way.

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one. – Hans Selye

How to handle those people?

  • Involve Others. Whenever possible, do not have a one-on-one conversation with someone who’s seriously angry. Bring people in on the conversations without being obvious. Invite someone over for their input, advice, or expertise. cc or bcc other people on emails.
  • Don’t Respond With Anger. We went into this in detail last week (you can read it here) but here are the basics:
    • Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements.
    • Keep words like “always,” “never” or “everyone” out of conversations.
    • Use a calm and authoritative voice.
    • Stand straight and look the other person in the eye.
    • Be aware of your facial expressions (this one is a real struggle for some folks!).
    • Avoid wringing your hands, making fists, crossing your arms or picking your nails (hitting people or furniture is also not)
  • Don’t Take it Personally. 9/10 times, it has nothing to do with you as a person.
  • Identify the Cause. When possible, just ask them to explain why they are angry. Don’t interrupt. Ask questions. Listen. Use a calm voice.
  • Distract Them. If possible and appropriate, give them a reason to laugh. Shared laughter does, in fact, make everything better.


  • Seek a Solution. Once you know why they are angry, avoid making excuses or defending your actions. Simply ask what you can do to resolve the situation and make it right. There are few words more powerful than “what would you like for me to do?”

Almost ALL of us have a need to explain our actions and have people see our side of things. THIS IS NOT THE TIME. Right now you need a resolution, not a discussion. Fight the urge. Simply ask – as calmly as possible – what they would like for you to do. This works across the board – from the living room to the conference room. Just try it.

Want to find out more? Check here.

Have a tip to add to this list? I’d love to see it in the comments!

As always, if we can help you communicate to your audience, online or in person, we’d love the opportunity to help you grow.

Marie Mallory, Communication and PR Specialist, Irons Media Group




Taming Your Temper

taming-temperStress, anger and low self-esteem are all issues that get in the way of effective communication and none of them are easy to deal with. Last week we talked about dealing with stress and self-esteem when we communicate. This week we’re tackling the temper monster.

ANGER is a battle that most of us have to fight from time to time. I have to admit that learning to control my quick temper has not been an easy battle for me. Nor have I won it. It’s ridiculously easy to pop off quickly and say things we’ll regret later. It’s also easy to misinterpret what others are saying when we’re ticked off. You know what I mean… when you’re really good and angry and anything that anybody says puts them in the line of fire.

The good news is that like stress, anger reactions are emotional responses and we CAN learn to control them. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques are easy solutions that calm emotions, relax muscles, and slow our heartbeat. The challenge is making the time to calm down when you’re smack dab in the middle of a situation that has your temper rising.

Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Whenever possible, find a way to give yourself a few minutes. Walk away, go to the bathroom, get a drink, reschedule… whatever you need to do. Give yourself time to think logically about the situation, consider how it affects you and how best to handle it BEFORE you respond and ensure that you come across like the mature, responsible, professional you are.

Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. – Laurence J. Peter

Of course, that’s not always possible. Sometimes we just have to deal with the issue while we’re angry. Like most things, mastering our responses requires practice and intention… and, I think, is a lifelong work in progress for most of us. However, a lot of it does become second nature as we work at it. It also makes you feel good and you’ll find that others respect you more for your ability to respond well under pressure. Here are some tips to work with:

  • Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. When a co-worker comes to you on Friday at 4:00 – again – needing help with a report that’s due Monday morning, instead of saying, “you should have had that done last week!” try saying, “I’m really sorry this is just getting done. Please explain to The Boss that the deadline will have to be pushed back.”
  • Avoid over-generalizations. Keep words like “always,” “never” or “everyone” out of conversations. Instead of saying “you always do this” try “I can’t help you with this right now. I have too much on my plate today.” Keep the discussion on the issue at hand.
  • Make the most of your non-verbal behavior. Use a calm and authoritative voice. Stand straight and look the other person in the eye. Keep a neutral expression on your face. Be aware of your hands and don’t wring them, make fists, cross your arms or pick your nails. (Also – don’t throw things.)

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain

Taming our tempers isn’t easy. It takes work to master this element of communication. However, the rewards are huge. Don’t try to do it all at once. Choose one tip at a time to work on and put into practice.

Don’t have temper issues to deal with personally but get stuck dealing with angry people? Tune in next week…

Have a tip to add to this list? I’d love to see it in the comments!

As always, if we can help you communicate to your audience, online or in person, we’d love the opportunity to help you grow.

Marie Mallory, Communication and PR Specialist, Irons Media Group

Stress & Self-Esteem


stress-self-esteemYou know how it is… some days you bring your A-game and everything is smooth sailing. The next, nothing seems to come out quite right and people are constantly getting on your nerves. The truth is – it’s mostly in your head – literally. Our mental state has a lot to do with how effectively we communicate; both in how messages are sent and in how they are received. These ‘psychological barriers’ usually come in the form of stress, anger, or low self-esteem.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. – William James

We’ll deal with anger next week… for now, let’s take a look at stress and self-esteem and how they can derail our communication efforts.

STRESS is a part of everyone’s daily life. Whether you’re overwhelmed at work or at home, have too many decisions to make, or are stuck in a traffic jam with somewhere you need to be. Stress comes from demands placed on our physical or mental energy that are outside of our range of easy management.

It’s no wonder that we communicate differently when we are stressed… headaches, indigestion, insomnia, tiredness and twitching eyes can do that to a person. Maybe the right words don’t seem to come to mind easily, your voice sounds thin, or words that aren’t usually a part of your vocabulary seem to come out of nowhere.

According to Dr. Harry Barry, this happens because our emotional brain is reacting ahead of our logical brain. The trick is to strengthen the logical brain to take over even under high stress. You can find his video on how to do that here. Breathing exercises have also been proven to do wonders for managing stress and you can find some tips on that here.

Sometimes when people are under stress, they hate to think, and it’s the time when they most need to think. – William J. Clinton

SELF-ESTEEM may not seem like an obvious barrier to effective communication. However, people with low self-esteem are generally less assertive and often feel uncomfortable communicating how they feel. They typically avoid any type of conflict. Additionally, they often hear negative implications in other people’s words that really aren’t there and magnify any negative comments.

Being assertive is a core communication skill. It simply means that you are able to express yourself and your opinions effectively, while respecting the values and opinions of others. While some people have no problem being assertive, there are many who struggle with this – especially in terms of being able to say “no” when approached with taking on one more obligation or responsibility.

If you are struggling to deal with someone on your team that suffers from low self-esteem, you may need to change your approach. Realize that they aren’t telling you how they feel and they may be harboring a great deal of resentment underneath their passive attitude.  When possible, play to their strengths. Give them assignments in areas in which they excel. Have them shadow you in areas in which they need improvement and ask them to help you in their area of expertise. Avoid negative comments.

In reality, being assertive boosts self-esteem, earns respect from our peers, and reduces both stress and anger – qualities that all of us can benefit from. The trick is not to confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. Assertiveness is direct but always respectful. If you need to work on improving your self-esteem or being more assertive, check out some of the helpful sites available on the web including this one and this one.

As always, if we can help you communicate your message more effectively with each other or with your audience, we’d love to help. Have a tip we didn’t mention? We’d love to see it in the comments!

Marie Mallory, Communication / PR Specialist, Irons Media Group


Special thanks to the Mayo Clinic and Trinity College Dublin for their assistance!