Security guards often find themselves in situations where they must deal with people who are angry, difficult or in an altered state of mind. This can range from a person being denied entry to party or event, or fielding the wrath of those who have been waiting in long lines or crowded, overpopulated areas. A basic knowledge of human psychology and a solid set of communication skills can greatly help when security officers and/or bodyguards are in these situations. There are several ways to diffuse a situation with an angry person or deal with difficult people in general, all of which relate to these types of skills and know-how.
Listening: When on the receiving end of an angry person, the security guard should demonstrate good listening skills, even if they know the agitated person is in the wrong. By letting the person vent their frustrations and have their say, he/she may become easier to deal with. One of the main reasons customers and everyday citizens lose their cool and become aggressive is the feeling that they are not being heard; a simple acknowledgement of their feelings can lessen the intensity of the situation. Let them know that they have valid reason to be upset and assure them that their situation is being handled as swiftly as possible.
Understanding: Security officers should attempt to empathize whenever possible to show understanding of why the person is upset. When appropriate, saying something like “I can imagine how frustrated you must be, and I apologize for the inconvenience,” is all a person needs to hear to take their anger down a few notches and redirect their feelings in a different way. Let them know that their feelings are important, and that their complaint will not go unnoticed. Be sure not to appear condescending when voicing your understanding; if the person feels belittled on top of everything else, their demeanor could intensify and the guard will have to work twice as hard to calm them down.
Not reacting: Most importantly, the officer should never react to a person’s aggression with more aggression. Though it is tempting to match this person’s tone and “stand one’s ground,” yelling back at an agitated person won’t accomplish anything productive and will make the officer or guard appear unprofessional. Guards should try to ignore insults and careless remarks as best they can, despite their growing frustration. Angry people often say things in the heat of the moment and don’t mean much of what they’re venting. Also, it’s appropriate and beneficial to admit mistakes if the situation calls for it; Security officers should not be afraid to gently correct false or inaccurate statements, but they must go about it as calmly as possible. A good example would be a person saying “I’ve been standing in line for hours”; the guard could respond with “My time clock shows it’s actually been 35 minutes, but I understand that it must feel like hours,” if that is the case.
Agreement: It can also be useful to attempt to agree with the angered person on something, even something arbitrary, as it’s an opening that can lead to other agreements in the conversation. Doing this temporarily shifts the power from the security guard who appears to be in charge of this person’s temporary fate to the person who feels they are being treated unjustly. If it’s a venue that the guard is patrolling and the person makes a comment about the poor customer service that they are experiencing, the guard could play both sides of the fence while remaining professional and seemingly validating the upset person; saying something like “Well, I don’t have any personal experience with the staff here, but you are not the first person to express dissatisfaction with them,” is a good way of staying neutral and controlling the person’s anger.