confused when verbally abused

by Anna

HI my name is Anna and this evening I was looking for a way of dealing with some of my "problems" when I came across your website which I find very positive and helpful. I hope this is not going to be too long for you..

When people shout at me, or are aggressive, it is like if my mind goes blank and I can't think straight! My heart beats fast and I am not able to reply. I reply but then it is not what I really want to say. My voice trembles and I am sure that the person on the other line (I work in an office and talk to people on the phone) knows this and I get confused on what I have to say, and even though in a normal and calm situation I would know how to reply and how to deal with it, when I am shouted at or verbally abused or if someone is angry or complaining about something in an aggressive way I am not able to deal with the situation. I read your articles about self-confidence and that sometimes people are aggressive because they are insecure, and this is very interesting and true. I am trying to find a way of solving this problem because I am also thinking of career changing (even though I still not know what I want to do) and I want to be more confident because at the moment my manager is understanding and very protective, but in another situation I could be faced with worst tasks and I don't want people to treat me like this or to think it is ok to treat me like this just because they are paying for a service. But I don't know how to deal with this type of situation. It is very frustrating and I want to be stronger. I think I also lack in confidence as my first language is not English and therefore sometimes I cannot fully express myself, especially if I am attacked! I just need some directions.. please help.
Thank you

Visitor's Comments
Date: May 28, 2008
Posted By: Catherine,

Hi Anna,

Thanks for the nice comments about my site. Much appreciated.

Anyway, first thing you should know is that no one likes to be shouted at or yelled at. I think your response is completely normal for a caring person. It is upsetting to be yelled at or verbally abused.

I've worked in a few places myself where I had to answer calls from angry people. So, I know how you feel. It's very frustrating and at first, I used to take it personally. It felt like it was my fault and I'd done something wrong.

I found it helped when I realized that people weren't angry at me. They were angry at the situation and they were usually just venting. Something I found which helped me was that I would say something like, "I understand why you would find that upsetting." or "I can see why you're frustrated." Then, they realize you're on their side and want to help them. Then, you can move on to something like, "Let me get all the details so that we can find a solution to this for you." Then, they feel like you're working with them and are going to do something about the problem.

A lot of the times, I found the person was really just looking for someone to help with how frustrated they were feeling and if they could see you cared about their issue, they would calm down and sometimes even apologize for being so nasty at the beginning.

Key steps though are realizing it's not your fault and you're not responsible for the issue. You can be sympathetic though and help them solve the issue. It helps if you can understand where they're coming from and that it's not a personal attack against you. It's frustration with the situation.

Also, there's probably a feeling of fear on their part. They're afraid that no one is going to help them solve their issue or that you're not going to believe them that's there's a problem. A lot of people probably go into the situation already imagining the worst that you're not going to help and that the situation is just going to get worse and worse and worse. They're focusing on what they don't want and they're imagining all the bad things that might happen. So, as soon as you basically tell them, "It's okay, we're going to find a solution to this" then they're relieved.

So, maybe if you came up with a few phrases you feel comfortable saying when someone starts yelling at you like my previous suggestion of, "I can see why that would upset you...." and know that you have a response ready for that situation, your mind wouldn't go blank. Maybe even write your phrases down on a post-it note and put them on your monitor. Then you're ready for that situation and you won't be struggling to think of something.

But, do remember it's not a personal attack against you. I know it feels like it is but it's not. They're angry at the situation, not you.

Also, do take the time to consider whether this is a sign that you do want to do something different. If you like your job then know that you just need to find solutions to dealing with the angry people. But, it could be a sign that you're also wanting to do something different. Don't let your thoughts of "what if it's worse..." stop you because you have just as good of a chance (if not better) of it really being a question of, "What if it's better?" You don't have to know exactly what you want to do. Think about the areas that interest you and maybe explore those more.

Anyway, this is a long response. But, I'd be glad to help you out any way I can. So, if you'd like more suggestions or want to discuss it further, just let me know.

Comments for confused when verbally abused

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May 29, 2008
Thank you Catherine
by: Anna

Dear Catherine,

here is another long one... sorry! I like writing and it is the best way I know to communicate....

I have just read your reply to my "verbal abuse comments "and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to reply. It is very very appreciated.

I understand your advise and I think you are right. I will try and stick little notes on my monitor to help me deal with aggressive clients...and I will try not to take it personally and to try and understand the main issue and help them...
I don't want to advertise my self so i won't say who I work for but I am a wedding planner and I have been doing this job for the past 8 years and I have never had a client who would behave like this. I had clients complaining about things (not many!) and I have always managed to put them straight and be helpful, but this one, I just can't! but I will try and deal with her without letting her affecting my private life as it is not fair and I should not give someone like her this kind of power.... My work has become something that I love and hate at the same time! I like the creativity part of it and I love it when it all goes as planned and people are happy, but I am frustrated as I do not know what I really want to do and there are so many things happening in my life right now that I don't think I can make a decision. I will be reading some of the self- help books suggested on your site (actually I have downloaded them all!!!) to see if I can find the answers I am looking for and I would really like to say that I am very happy to have found you. It is so unusual in this word, that someone takes the time to actually give advise and help without asking nothing back.... I would like to make my life useful and make a difference in this word but I don't know how and I am not the kind of person who goes out there and just does it and probably that's my problem. I am too scared of going out there ... My job is nice but it does not make me happy anymore.... and I do not feel as if I am making a difference... I am sure there are many people feeling like me right now...I have happy brides who send me flowers and cards and this makes me happy but still it is not something that satisfies me. But then what would??? here is me being negative! I don't know Catherine but I know that I will find my way in this life... I just don't know how and when... but I will.. o yes! I won't be bothering you too much as I am sure you have many people to write to and a busy life, but once again from the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time and thank you for your advise it is so much appreciated... I will keep in touch and let you know I get on and next time I won't be writing an essay I promise!


Jun 02, 2008
You have the patience of an angel, Anna
by: Catherine,

Hi Anna,
You must have the patience of an angel to work with brides every day. Wow. Good for you. That is such a stressful time for women. There's so many things all wrapped up into that one day. Expectations of perfection and also fulfilling childhood dreams, fear and excitement of entering a new phase of life, and often dealing with family conflicts and there's also the issue of money and budgets thrown in there too. You definitely can't take it personally when a bride is freaking out.

So, if it's just one bride that's causing so many issues for you, her wedding will be over soon hopefully and then she'll be gone from your life. That's nice to know that it won't be permanent. Some people really are very draining and negative just in their whole persona. Maybe imagine there's a barrier between you and her and that her comments can't touch you. Or see yourself wearing a super hero cape which instead of repelling bullets, repels her negativity. Or did you ever see the tv show "Wonder Woman"? She had cool bracelets which deflected weapons. Imagine yourself wearing those. "Take that Nasty Girl!" zap zap her comments are deflected right back at her. : - )

Anyway, so you like writing (me too!) so maybe that's an area you'd like to explore more. I don't think you need to know exactly what you want to do. You just need to be interested in exploring and trying different things. It's amazing where you'll find that you end up when you do that. It's not like you have to wake up one day and plan out exactly what you want to do with your entire life and how it's going to change the world. You just start small and keep moving forwards and pretty soon you're amazed with what you've done.

With writing, you could do that in your spare time or take a class or something like that which would be exploring something new but wouldn't be as scary as giving up your job and doing something completely different.

You like to organize and plan things. So, if you wanted to find a different job there'd be tons of opportunity for you. You could definitely try being a different type of event planner if you wanted. A lot of companies require planners and they'll know that you can stay calm under pressure and dealing with difficult people. Maybe you could find one that involves writing promotional material as well if you think you'd like doing that.

I think if you became open to the idea of leaving your current job, you'd be amazed at what opportunities you suddenly notice all around you. But, if your thoughts are knowing that you'd be too scared to do it, then your brain will not "see"Â any opportunities. Hope that makes sense. It's sort of like you see what you're looking for. So, if you start to look for something else you might like to try, I think you'll suddenly hear or see potential opportunities. But, your mind has to be open to receiving them.

I've written to much for this comment field. To be continued in next comment.

Jun 02, 2008
by: Catherine,

I definitely write too much. These fields allow 3,000 characters and I still run out of space.

Anyway, the other thing I wanted to tell you is that I think you make a difference in the world when you're expressing yourself in whatever way you feel most alive doing. So, if you absolutely love planning things and that's what you do, then you're making a difference. As you said, you've made a wonderful difference in the lives of a lot of brides. So, you just need to find what you love doing yet still allows you to be constantly learning and growing. Maybe your current job doesn't challenge you any more after 8 years. Or maybe it's just because you said you have a lot going on in your life right now. Sometimes that can spill over into how you feel about your job.

And, remember fear often comes when you focus on what you don't want or on failing. For example, you may be afraid to try something new because you're afraid you won't be any good at it or that you'll end up in a worst position. You're focusing on what you don't want. Turn it around and think about what you do want. Maybe you'd like to work with less stressed out customers. : - ) If you focus on that and then think about how you could get that, you'll find you're going to feel much less fearful and actually more excited about it.

Anyway, definitely do keep in touch. I do want to hear back from you and to hear how you're doing. Also, write as much as you want! Just do what I did and use more than one comment box if you need to. : - )

Jun 03, 2008
by: Anna

Hi Catherine

I wrote to you last night but then when I submitted there was a fatal error and I was too tired to write it all again...
I liked the wonderwoman o=advise! it made me laugh a lot!
What you said was helpful and today this particular bride ended up letting her fiancee call me to say that their budget had gone down due to a business problem and that they now had to review everything. She then sent me an email to go through everything and I know I should not say this but from someone arrogant and ignorant who was going to stay in the best suite to asking a reduction to stay in a standard room it just felt as if there is a Lord up there. My colleague said "I would not want to be on the wrong side with you" probably because I let transpare that in a way I enjoyed the fact that she had to review all her plans and that now she no longer had the excuse " Oh, I am spendind all this money". Now she is equal to the other brides and she cannot pretend because she is not spending all this money and I am trying my best to make sure she gets what she dreamt of at a lower budget. . . I know it sounds awful and now that I am thinking about it, I feel sorry for her, in a way, and I will try my best to make her wedding dream come true, it is just that now she seems powerless... isn't it weird what money can do!? and the thing is that this is something that maybe I created in my head... maybe I gave her more importance because she was spending more money and this experience taught me some big lessons... money are nothing compared to respect and good manners.

Jun 03, 2008
by: Anonymous

Anyway it does not matter anymore because I have come across a wonderful book (I have got to tell you the title because if you have not read it you will love it!) it is called Street Kid By Judy Westwater and it is a very sad story about abuse and survival and you have got to read it. I read it in two days but it took me about 9 hours in total to read it. It just hooks you and if you go and read the reviews you will see how good they are. It thought me that my moaning and my problems are nothing compared to what abused children and abused people in general really go through every day and as an adult I should be able to deal with people and be strong enough to put them in the right place and stop moaning. I know that each of us has its own problems and in every step of our lives some problems seem bigger than others, but it is just when you are faced with tragedy that one realises what is happening in this world...
I am not usually selfish but I am sometimes and I see people thinking about themselves, what they feel and thinking and it is all about them and it makes me angry because they do nothing to change their situation or because they think they are doing something about it but they are not... just like me...I am angry at me because I know I could do so much more and I don't...
Well Catherine this book is beautifully written and it is a real life story and it has enlightened me. This is all I can say for now but I will keep you updated on my progess and thank you for spending all that time writing to me. It helped... it is nice to have someone to "talk" to..
I always have to listen to people talking to me and I hardly open up as if I do I then somehow feel guilty about it because I am not just talking about me, but I am also talking about people involved in my life and if I say something about them to someone else I then regret it because it is like talking about them when really it is about the effect they are having on me . . . .I don't know if it makes any sense ... I go now and I will be in touch soon..
take care xxxx Anna

Jun 09, 2008
by: Anna

Hi Catherine
Just a quick note to say it is going well and the self-confidence is starting to grow. Today I had a discussion with a supplier and he was aggressive and I then focused on the point and managed not to be get upset or confused and my point came across even if he did not get it... but that's because he is thick and guess what it is a supplier related to the wedding I am organsing for that lady I was initially talking about... I am learning....
Speak soon and I hope you are well xxx

Jun 10, 2008
Good job Anna
by: Catherine,

Hey Anna,

I'm so glad to hear that things are going well for you. That's so awesome that your self confidence is growing. Sounds like you handled that supplier perfectly! You are doing so great. I'm very proud of you!

Thanks for the book recommendation too. I'll have to go look for it in my local bookstore.

I loved one of your comments in a previous post about how you'd let that bride seem more important simply because she was spending so much money and how really respect for others is what's important not the money. Great insight.

I'm having problems with these comments appearing so hopefully this one will show up. Maybe we broke it with our long posts. : - ) I'll get it fixed though. But, I'm just so thrilled to hear that things are going well for you. Whoo Hoo! You're doing so awesome.

Jun 10, 2008
by: Anna

HI Catherine thanks
you sounded so positive and excited about my improvements it is great!
Today the supplier called and kind of apologised for his behaviour to my colleague as I wasn't available... R E S P E C T !!!!!!! that's the word! yeah! ! ! !

I have decided that this evening I'll concentrate on my wedding plans! I am getting married next year and I haven't even started planning my wedding but I want to enjoy the planning of my wedding I think will start tonight

It is so nice to hear from you

take care and I will be in touch with more updates

Anna x

Jun 12, 2008
by: Catherine,

Congratulations, Anna!!!!!

First, that's so wonderful to hear about your upcoming wedding. You're going to have such a huge advantage in knowing exactly what you need to do and the best way to do it. Definitely enjoy it. As I'm sure you know from working with other brides, it's over before you know it. I'm so excited for you.

And secondly, Wow, that's awesome that the supplier actually called back to apologise. Very cool. What a difference. You had much more of an effect than you thought at the time. You're doing so amazing. What a difference small changes can make. You go Girl!!!!

Jun 17, 2008
beating the bully
by: ciao

Ciao Catherine

I hope you are well.. yes knowing what I need to do is a great advantage...
This weekend I may meet that client I was talking about. I am going to meet her at her home with my boss to have some support. My boss was going to meet her on her own as she did not want me to be with this client on my own and because at the end she says it is not fair that I should meet her during my free time, but since I think I should face her, and be as professional as possible, but just to demonstrate to my self not her, that I can do it and I can face her in the same way I have faced other bullies and ignorant people in my life, so subject to when this meeting is I am actually going to try and meet her ... even if it means sacrificing my weekend... I have got to do it . . . by the way Italy won against France tonight!!! Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Let's hope we beat Spain on Sunday.... and that Me beating the bully and Italy beating Spain would make my weekend!!!
Well I will keep you updated next week and thanks for your support ...
Anna x

May 25, 2009
Intermediate step to hardening-up
by: Anonymous

For those who experience the inability to control their emotional reaction to heated situations, try visiting online forums that debate issues.

The skills you will learn are:

Slowing down.

No one is waiting for your reply. Time stops still. Take your time. Take deep breath. Type your reply out and think about it. Re-examine it, then post it.


When you stop to examine your own arguement you not only get smarter and learn about your own values, you sound succinct and eloquent. Even if you're a bad speller or have english second lanuage you control the response time - use it to check grammar and spelling and increase you communication skills.

Remember: You are in control in a forum reply situation. You do not have to reply. You chose when to engage. You have the power. Set time aside when you are not cooking dinner or about to go to bed. It's definiately a daytime activity. Don't lay awake at night wondering about how your reply is recieved. Post once on a topic and move on. Check replies a few days later when you are fully relaxed. You'll find that your well thought out reply exceeds any off the cuff further abuse you may have attracted. It will be self evident.

This is exactly how real life works, but at a faster speed. Once you recognise your own values and thoughts, they will come to you quickly in real life arguments. And you'll realise that not many people take the time to prepare for disagreements. You need not fear them - your opponent is likely woefully unprepared. You may even realise that there a very few things you need to get upset about and that leads to a happier more relaxed life.

Dec 19, 2009
So glad I found this..
by: Sharni

I am so glad that I found this site, I have been very upset the last couple of days and needed some advice.

I work as a carer in peoples homes. I have been unhappy with the particular family I am working with and made a decision that I wanted to end this care. I am very intimidated by a particular family member so I made a choice to speak to them over the phone on Friday. I am giving them 4 weeks notice and I was very friendly and professional on the phone when I told them.

Well,I got verbally abused! I got told that I am unprofessional and that it wasn't a correct time to talk to them...that they have no respect for me...that they now don't have a carer and will have to give up jobs all because of me...that I broke a contract and that I shouldn't have told them before Christmas. I believe I did the right thing by telling them weeks in advance when legally I only have to give them 1 weeks notice.

I then asked them if they want me to continue care for the next 4 weeks as I am not comfortable with the way I was getting spoken to and the response was "No, but I don't have choice do I"!!

They also refered to themselves as my 'employer' and me as the 'employee'!! I am self employed and they are my clients, not my bosses. I made a decision that I needed to make the contract had no time limit on it and I refuse to work in a home that I am not comfortable in.

I wouldnt be so upset, if I didn't have to go back into that home and work for the next few weeks. I hate confrontation and am making myself sick over it.

I don't know why i am so upset! I should be able to get the weeks over and done with and not care about it. But I cannot stop thinking about it!


Dec 28, 2009
Bad Clients
by: Anonymous

Hi Sharni,

Sorry you had to go through that experience. It is upsetting when people treat you like that. They tried to make it seem like it's your fault when it's not.

His reaction was meant to hurt you and it did. He made those comments because he knew they would upset you. He knows that you take great pride in your job and do a fantastic job. He's made you doubt yourself. That was his intention. It's a mean thing to say. He's angry that he has to find someone else and instead of trying to solve the situation, he just wants to strike out and hurt anyone in his path. It speaks volumes about him.

Good for you remaining professional at all times. It sounds like you handled the situation in the best way you could.

Also good for you for firing bad customers and that's exactly what he is, a bad customer that doesn't deserve to have your care and attention. Focus on the people you do like working with.

They've probably gone through this situation before and had other care givers refuse to work for them. They don't see it that they've caused the problem themselves, they just blame others.

It's good that you're getting out of this situation. It wouldn't have mattered what you did, they never would have been satisfied. No matter how many weeks notice you gave, they wouldn't have been happy.

How they reacted is a great sign that you made the right decision to not provide further care in that household. You know you made the right choice.

I hope your weeks go quickly and that you don't have to interact with that person at all.

Focus on your good customers.

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