Most of us have been in situations where we’ve had to deal with someone who has lost their temper. It’s usually not hard to tell when someone is on the verge of losing their temper. You can see it physically, anything from a red face and veins popping to teeth grinding, pacing with arms crossed, even crying. You can hear it in their voice. There are plenty of warning signs to let you know that someone is upset and is on the verge of losing their temper. If someone comes to you with a problem or concern and they are upset and losing their temper, there is no sense in discussing the issue until you can get the person calmed down. No good can result from trying to have a reasonable conversation with someone who’s seeing red.
How can you calm someone down to a point where you can start to talk about their issues in a rational way? The better you know a person, the easier it will be to tell what will work and what won’t work to diffuse a situation. One thing I can’t stress enough is the importance of getting a driver off the road if they’re losing their temper in the truck. A driver who is angry or upset on the road is an unsafe driver. Tell the person that you’d like to hear what they have to say as soon as they’ve pulled over in a safe place. A lot of companies have a zero tolerance policy on phone usage while the truck is in motion, but for those who don’t it’s imperative to get an angry driver to stop driving first and foremost.
Here are some effective ways to help calm down an angry or upset person:
- Change the environment: Are you in your office with the person? Try moving to a more neutral space, or to their “turf.” A client just recently shared that walking outside to the yard with an angry driver helped to calm him down. Sometimes just the act of physically moving to a different space can trigger a person to move to a different mindset. If you think the person may be angry enough to lash out physically, try to move to a public space.
- Let them vent: Sometimes a person just needs to talk it out. As long as the person isn’t being threatening or verbally abusive, let your angry driver vent to you for a few minutes without interrupting. Make sure to stay calm and neutral; the point is to let them blow off steam, not to get you emotionally riled up as well.
- Repeat back what you’re hearing: Let the person know that you’re listening and that you understand what they’re saying by paraphrasing what you’re hearing. Saying something like “What I’m hearing you say is…” will be mutually beneficial; you will find out if you understand what the problem is, and they will know you’re truly listening to them.
- Empathize: You may not have been in their situation before, but try to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. Saying things like “If I were in a situation like that, I’d be upset too” can be effective. Placing yourself in the shoes of the other person can also help you to come up with a solution together.
Chances are, if someone comes to you about to lose their temper, they are either mad at you or they trust you enough to come to you for help and guidance. Either way, there is not much that can be done until tempers cool off. Once the person is in a better place emotionally you can start to address the problem.