Rude Angry Customers: 5 Ways to Stay Calm & Caring | #Custserv #Peopleskills

Rude angry customers don’t have to demotivate you and wear you down. Rude angry customers can actually be one of the best people skills learning experiences you will ever have.

How? It helps you to develop even more emotional intelligence. This will serve you well throughout your career and your life.   I have been teaching people skills, teamwork, and customer service for 25+ years. The right thoughts and mindset are crucial! It’s emotional intelligence in action.

Think these 5 things when working with rude angry customers for best results. It keeps you both calm and caring — a winning combination.

5 Powerful Beliefs to Win Over Rude Angry Customers

Practice these thoughts as a daily mantra and your outlook toward rude angry customers (and rude people in general) will change. Your people skills will blossom with these emotionally intelligent thoughts!

Rude Angry Customers: Image is flower with thorns.

Rude Angry Customers. Image by Yogendra174 via Flickr.


  1. Thorns don’t attack you; they protect them.
    Plants have thorns to protect them. So do people. When you hear a person’s thorns, recognize their fear and weakness. The thorns are not attacking you. They are protecting them. Do not attack them from your fear and you will not get pricked by their thorns.

  2. Easy doesn’t sharpen a thorn. One of the most common questions I receive is “If we are nice to rude angry customers, aren’t we teaching to be rude next time?” No! Your positive responses do not teach them to be thornier! Thorny customers are adults who make their own decisions.

  3. De-thorning them will hurt you! If a stranger tried to kick down your defense mechanisms (like your front door), how would you react? Fight back and defend? Well, the customers don’t have a family relationship or close friendships with you. To them you are a stranger. If you try to clip their thorns directly, they will defend and prick you back.

  4. Empathize w/ Their Emotion; Don’t Analyze Their Thorns! Trying to analyze a customer’s thorns in the few minutes you have to deliver service is not feasible or logical. It takes therapists years to analyze a client’s emotions. Yours is to deliver service, not to change the customer. Empathize emotion don’t analyze it.

  5. Positivity Beats Equality; Don’t be a Thorn! During a recent workshop a technical support rep asked me “Why do rude angry customers acting badly deserved to be treated well?”. I replied, “You treat rude angry customers (and all customers) well because it works. It gets you to the end goal.”

    Treating the customer badly will not get the customer to treat you well. More importantly, it will veer you off course from business success. Positivity beats equality as a winning strategy in customer service.

Be the sun, not the thorn. You can’t change people; you can change your beliefs and influence the outcome!

Tap into more of Kate’s playbook on delivering The Ultimate Customer Experience especially in difficult moments — click here.

From professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Grateful for image by Yogendra174 via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Related Posts:
Customer Service: 24 Tips to Make It Easy For Customers
Super Customer Experience: 5 Immediate No Cost Improvements

©2010-2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on delivering the ultimate customer service, leading change, employee engagement, and teamwork. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.


Engage in people skills learning!

Let’s turn interaction obstacles into business success in leadership, teamwork, and customer service experience.

I invite your questions, welcome your wisdom, and look forward to working with you.
~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

26 Responses to “Rude Angry Customers: 5 Ways to Stay Calm & Caring | #Custserv #Peopleskills”

  1. Sonya Henderson says:

    Kate, you rocked this old topic about handling rude customers with a completely different and unique perspective. I love #1 – Thorns don’t attack you they protect them.

    That will be on my mind with rude customers and with people in general. You have moved me to a new outlook on life.


  2. Jen Kuhn says:

    Hi Kate,
    I love the analogy! The thorns are a visual most employees can connect with and understand. I especially like your first point: “thorns don’t attack you, they protect them”. What a fabulous way of looking at a customers’ behavior. They are simply trying to protect themselves and their best interests…not fully knowing whether the employee would do the same for them. This flows very nicely with number 3: the idea of having a defense mechanism as a way of protection. I like the challenge you pose: if someone were to attempt to knock down my front door (my first line of defense), it would simply add fuel to the fire. It would be more effective to knock on my door and see if I’m receptive. This will de-escalate a situation (when empathy is added, as you point out).
    Another fantastic way of looking at dealing with and addressing an upset customer.
    I appreciate your perspective and ability to communicate challenging situations in a non-threatening way.

  3. Liz C. says:

    Excellent. Thank you Kate. Always on time with great tips. The problem is to put them at work because we are dealing with human beings that have many issues.

    Emotional issues that are difficult to deal with and difficult to understand too. I think it is all about managing our emotions. Our emotions, wow, we need to be in tune with our emotions and protect them at all times from cruel people that have never thought about their own emotions.

    The more I think about this, the more I want to learn. If we are masters of our own emotions and deeply believe that we can handled whatever comes our way, we can then help others by showing them the opposite of what they are accustom to (cruel people).


  4. Redy2Assist says:


    I love this post. It never pays to be mean and nasty to people who are mean to you. I always say…kill them with kindness.

    You made a great point when you said “thorns are not attacking you. They are protecting them. Do not attack out of your fear and you will not get pricked by their thorns.”

  5. Sarah W. says:

    Thank you for directing me to this post Kate. I too love the analogy! I agree with the other comments that I especially like your first point. It is so very easy as an employee to want to take a customer’s attitude as a personal attack (especially with the ones that literally attack you personally–attacking your intelligence, kindness and what not). It is excellent advice to just change your mental image of that person to someone that is not attacking, but rather protecting.

  6. Jane Perdue says:

    Kate – a very thoughtful post and on point in my view. I once listened to an inspiring speaker who encouraged her audience to ‘not become what just happened to you.’ Your tips and pointers put that advice to beautiful use!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Jane and nice way of putting “Don’t become what just happened to you!”. Thanks for sharing your perspective and passing along what another inspirational speaker had to share.

      To those reading Jane’s comment, find more of her insights on her Twitter feed

      All the best,

  7. Anne Egros says:

    Thanks Kate !
    Awesome article, great metaphor

  8. Ken Levy says:

    Kate – once again, you’ve nailed it. And I have to tell you, I think #4 (don’t analyze them) is the key point. Let a shrink do his job; ours is customer SERVICE!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thanks for your comment Ken. Love your analogy — let the therapists try to analyze and change the customer. Ours is to serve.

      Appreciate your contribution here..

  9. Sabrae says:

    I tend to agree with your rules here. And thanks so much on your recent visit to my hub. I recently wrote a new hub entitled
    Just a sarcastic note of sort for all the rudeness I go through in a night! lol
    Though I try my hardest to be nice and deliever with a smile, it is hard. And actually I’m a very outspoken type of person who doesn’t like to be looked down upon because of my profession, and so it tends to be hard to bite my tounge and at times I just can’t help it. And in the few times I have opened my mouth to rude customers I have seen a change in their attuides tremondously! It’s weird how people act. I say, If you feel like you are having a bad day, keep it at home 🙂

  10. Khalid says:

    Be the sun, not the thorn. You can’t change people; you can change your beliefs and influence the outcome.

    LOVED IT 🙂

  11. Ruth Whetsel says:

    Many thanks for the outlook revamp. Great! Ruth Whetsel

  12. Karen says:

    I like that you remind customer service folks that they have a business goal to accomplish. “Why should I be nice to angry people?” Because your company failed them! I am amazed at how few customer service folk get this. I had a Dr.s office confirm a procedure for the wrong day and I had fasted for two days and my sister drove from out of town to accompany me. When I called to resolve it the person on the phone told me that it was impossible that they had made a mistake and wasn’t trying to fix the problem.Was I angry? You bet! I just stopped her and said, “Wait just a minute. I want to point out that you are talking to someone who hasn’t eaten for two days.” She stopped being a jerk then and had somebody else call me back who was able to work me in that day. I now regularly interrupt rude customer service people to remind then of their goal.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Wow Karen, you handled that like a pro!! And you got through their listening block. I would love to write this up in a new blog post I’ve been thinking about. I will email you to ensure you get this request.

      As for now, thank you for expanding this discussion with a very relevant personal experience and triumph!

      Warmest regards,

      • Phil says:

        Hi kate,
        How do you deal with negative people or people who feel they are helping but are actually interfering in your life and causing more problem than help – is there any way i can communicate over to them but out – but nicely?
        and they happen to be family – and its causing difficulties in my married.

        • Kate Nasser says:

          Hi Phil,
          When I need to communicate nicely to family that they are being intrusive, I do the following:

          • Write down what I want to say
          • Rewrite it without the emotion
          • Show it to a trusted friend to see how it comes across to them
          • Ask myself how I would react to it if a family member said that to me

          … and if it comes across to me and friend as honest w/ care not blunt with emotion, I say it. We can respect others while still communicating our own needs. I had one family member who was butting in and I simply said: “Well, we see this (the issue) differently. Since it is my matter, I ask that you respect my space. I will do as I see fit.”

          Since you are married, you may want to discuss the issues w/ your spouse before proceeding. You didn’t mention if the family causing trouble was your birth family or your spouse’s. Although I am not married, my view is that married people must work things out together. For a professional view on this, touch base w/ a marital or family counsellor.

          Best wishes,

  13. Wendy Y says:

    I’m having a very very difficult customer service day, and am trying to talk myself off the ledge. Specific to my current customer service issues, I am convinced that it doesn’t matter how nice you are, how much you let them vent, how much you empathize with them, how much you don’t interrupt, how much you try to help, there are just some people who you cannot make happy no matter what, and that’s what I’m dealing with right now. Frustration is a good way to describe this.

    What about email rudeness? For example, the following is a response after I told the guy when the store opened, and twice about the time the owner is first available. “Good to know you didn’t mention this on prior emails just when the store opens.” This is his response to me after I stating the times TWICE when the owner was available to meet! How would you respond?? I responded by saying “Ok thank you. I’ll have Jeff respond.” I felt I needed to remove myself from this. When is enough enough? When should respect be commanded??

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Wendy,
      I hear your frustration and boy have I felt it in my life — many times. You ask some very interesting questions. I am actually going to write a new blog post because of your comment here today. So thank you for your inspiration!

      As for “talking yourself off the ledge” (a good idea :), my post will address key thoughts to use.

      The most important of all the key thoughts is “customer service is not friendship nor equality”. Our choice is to serve not to command anybody or anything. If we don’t make it a battle of who’s right or wrong, then we don’t have to feel disrespected. Stay tuned for my next blog post that will give far more clarity to the simple answer I have provided here.

      Surprisingly your answer, “OK thank you, I’ll have Jeff respond” was beautiful! You didn’t make it a battle. You kept it simple. My next blog post will talk about how to feel great about that instead of burning with anger over it.

      Warmest wishes for continued simplicity,

  14. Dave Moore says:

    Great post Kate
    It is so easy to engage with people who are angry. When we do we assimilate a lot of negativity. By not being engaged and just ‘connected’ we remain ourself and we don’t get into a battle. By remaining separate but professionally focused we dilute the anger.
    Always a pleasure to read your posts.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Great perspective Dave — don’t engage in the anger because we will end up assimilating it. Very true!

      Many thanks for your comment.

      • Darren DeMatas says:

        At the end of the day, we are fragile humans. Some just cover it up better 😉
        Great analogy, but it is hard to not get caught up in the moment.

        • Kate Nasser says:

          Hi Darren,
          Love your phrase “fragile human beings.” We can all have those moments! As professionals, with training and commitment, we can make sure we don’t have a fragile moment when the customers do.

          Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion Darren.

  15. […] reason for having an attitude of respect and patience when dealing with clients. When you face an angry customer, remember that he or she needs a sympathetic ear, not someone who relentlessly defends the company […]

  16. […] reason for having an attitude of respect and patience when dealing with clients. When you face an angry customer, remember that he or she needs a sympathetic ear, not someone who relentlessly defends the company […]

KateNasser on Facebook KateNasser Blog KateNasser on Twitter KateNasser on LinkedIn KateNasser on Pinterest