Dealing angry person over the phone

Sometimes we're placed in the situation where the other person is angry or they're out of control.This is typically going to be the case when we're doing customer support or some kind of telephone support. But it might happen when we're on a call with a peer, a boss, a college, a subordinate, someone we're working on a project with or maybe even an internal customer.

What do we do when we have a phone call with somebody who's just out of control? The first question I have is, do you have to take it? Do you have to take the call or do you have to take the abuse?

Either way I have to know if you want to manage that conversation right then. If you do, I invite you to see past the emotion and try and figure out what the purpose of call is. Some people are very good at calming other people down. I'm not one of those people. I tend to get riled up when the other person is riled up.

I get defensive. If you get defensive, I invite you to look past that emotion, all of anger, and maybe what looks like blame, and look for the real problem or purpose.

Typically, people are not going to call you just to yell at you, there's a reason why they're upset. Can we figure out what the reason is and figure out where to go from there? An alternative is that we can return with our own anger. We can be out of control too. I usually wouldn't recommend this. There are times when you need to stand up for yourself and for your team, but if you're talking with somebody who's out of control, it's probably not the right time to have a logical conversation. Finally, invite the person to reschedule the call when they're in control.

Even the way that you say that might help them understand that they're out of line.


You seem really upset right now. Can we reschedule this call for some time in the next couple of days? I'd like to talk about it, but I don't think this is the right time to talk about it.

Above example is very kind of saying, I'm not going to talk to you about this until you're  more in control.

Sometimes you really do have to take the anger from the other people, depending on what you're role is, but a lot of times it makes a lot of sense to reschedule it or to not even have that conversation.

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