This happens a lot to lawyers. We have to work with angry people. Generally, they aren’t angry with us (though sometimes they are). But they are angry. And talking with an angry person requires different communication techniques than talking with a non-angry person.
I happened across this article today — and it is spot-on re: how to deal when you’re face-to-face with the angry client or opposing counsel.
The piece is short and well worth a read. Highlights especially apropos for lawyers:
- Remain calm and try to calm the other person. Don’t let the other person’s anger become your anger
- Speak simply. Do not rely on official language or complex terminology.
- Avoid communicating a lot of technical or complicated information when emotions are high.
- Listen carefully. Do not interrupt or offer unsolicited advice or criticism.
Also addressed: nonverbal communication. Much of what we say is communicated not with words, but through our expressions, posture, and physical position (e.g. standing, seated) in relation to the other. Two key points:
- Keep body language calm. Have a relaxed posture with unclenched hands and an attentive expression.
- Get on the same physical level as the other person, e.g. both of you are standing or both sitting.
Any other techniques you’ve found helpful in communicating with an angry person?