confused when verbally abused
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.
May 28, 2008Posted By:
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.