Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: SamiHami on February 12, 2014, 02:35:05 PM

Title: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: SamiHami on February 12, 2014, 02:35:05 PM
I don't know that there is really a solution for this one. I spend part of my day at the front desk/lobby area of my office. It's very high traffic with current students, prospective students, various vendors and others coming through all day long. It's busy, but manageable and most people are very pleasant. However, once in a while we get a student who is upset about something; maybe a grade or a conflict with a teacher. When this occurs I usually try to listen to the students' concern and determine the appropriate person to speak with them for assistance. Most of the time it works out just fine. Other times we get someone who is really, really upset. This happened a couple of days ago.

"Mary" came to the lobby almost in tears because she had a conflict with an instuctor and felt she had been treated unjustly. As always, I tried to be soothing and told her I would find the appropriate person for her to talk to. She continued to stand over my desk and carry on about it, getting herself more tearful and worked up as she spoke. I gently suggested she have a seat and try to calm down a little while we waited for her advisor to come to the lobby to get her. "But I don't want to calm down! I'm angry and I want to be angry! This needs to be dealt with!" and so on.. you get the gist. She was filled with righteous indignation and wanted to keep that head of steam going until she got whatever would satisfy her sense of justice. *Note-I have no idea who was right/wrong here or if the instructor really did do anything wrong or unjust. But that is the student's perception of the situation and that is what matters in the moment.*

I can't ask her to leave and come back when the advisor is ready; the last thing we want is for a student to feel they are not being taken seriously and decide to withdraw and go elsewhere. Nor do we want someone tearful and angry carrying on in the lobby where potential students are getting their first impression of the school, either. It's a catch 22. If I could, I would put her in a separate office/room to wait, but space doesn't allow for that.

How would you suggest handling this?
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: daen on February 12, 2014, 02:40:35 PM
Maybe you could agree that yes, this needs to be dealt with. Then add, "but unfortunately, most people don't take things as seriously if the person is obviously angry as they do when the person is calm. You can be firm without being angry, and you'll get better results that way."

I don't know. I haven't had to deal with this kind of situation, so I have no idea if this would work.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 12, 2014, 02:44:29 PM
"I'm going to have to ask you to take a seat; I'm going to do something concrete to help you, and I need to concentrate."

Or "I've given you as much of my time as I can, and I have other things I need to do now."

"Perhaps you can't calm down, but you can take a seat, yes? Thank you--then I can get started on figuring out who you should talk to, and you can wait over there."

Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 02:44:40 PM
In my experience it is never helpful to tell an upset person to calm down.  I find it works best to say, "I understand you are angry - let me get you to the proper person." Ignore that the person is agitated, and do not agitate them further by becoming the next person on their list because you invalidated their anger (in their mind) by telling them to calm down.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 02:45:30 PM
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: shhh its me on February 12, 2014, 02:48:22 PM
  I would avoid saying the "c word"* , its often not soothing.  Unfortunately I don't have much beyond that.

*Calm down
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: lowspark on February 12, 2014, 02:49:47 PM
I like the "I understand you are angry" approach. Sometimes it's helpful just to know someone was listening and heard what you said. I'd also bring them a glass of water if possible. Drinking water seems to calm people down naturally.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: GreenBird on February 12, 2014, 03:06:55 PM
This is a tough one - someone who is determined to be upset will take anything you say as more reason to be upset.  I think the best you can do might be to try not to engage the crazy part, don't discuss the problem with the student, don't even try to be particularly soothing.  Just say, "I'll get your advisor for you; he'll be out as soon as possible.  Please take a seat."  You're professional, calm, relaxed, and working on getting her advisor for her right away so she's not being ignored, but you're not really open to discussion.  And you're not asking her to take a seat because you want her to calm down, you're asking because sitting down is what people are supposed to do while they're waiting.  If she continues talking to you, just repeat "Your advisor will be out as soon as possible.  Please take a seat" in the same relaxed, professional voice. 
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: MrTango on February 12, 2014, 03:07:03 PM
I'd say, very calmly, "You can either calm down and stop disrupting this office, or you can leave until you are able to deal with the situation calmly.  Those are your only options at this point, and if you cannot choose one for yourself, I will have campus security assist you with making your decision."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: wolfie on February 12, 2014, 03:09:45 PM
I'd say, very calmly, "You can either calm down and stop disrupting this office, or you can leave until you are able to deal with the situation calmly.  Those are your only options at this point, and if you cannot choose one for yourself, I will have campus security assist you with making your decision."

I would only do that if your supervisor has your back because if the student complains it could go very badly if the OP . Honestly if I was upset that response would make it so much worse.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 03:12:33 PM
I'd say, very calmly, "You can either calm down and stop disrupting this office, or you can leave until you are able to deal with the situation calmly.  Those are your only options at this point, and if you cannot choose one for yourself, I will have campus security assist you with making your decision."

I would only do that if your supervisor has your back because if the student complains it could go very badly if the OP . Honestly if I was upset that response would make it so much worse.

I agree with wolfie 100%.  If the goal is to diffuse the situation, do not demand that a person calm down and do not patronize or belittle them.  Acknowledge their anger and present a solution.  This likely to result in a calming, and certainly will get better results than essentially forcing a confrontation.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: LemonZen on February 12, 2014, 03:17:47 PM
I too think it would be helpful to avoid the "calm down" approach and try the "I understand" approach.

Another thing that may be helpful (although if they are really wound up I'm not sure it will work) is to listen, and then paraphrase what they are saying back to them. So Mary says "Instructor X is terrible and he doesn't like me and he gave me a failing grade just because my hair is green and I need this class or I'll never amount to anything in life blah blah blah..." then you say something like,

"I understand this must be very upsetting. What I am hearing from you is that Instructor X has been unfair in his grading, and that you think he dislikes you based on your appearance. It sounds like this is a very important class to you and we will get it sorted out as soon as we can. I think we need to talk to so and so to resolve this issue. I will get them on the phone (or whatever you need to do) right away so this can be resolved. Can I get you a glass of water/box of kleenex while you wait?" and then guide/direct them to a chair. Make it clear that you understand the issue (and understand their anger/frustration), are working on it, and from then on out I would not continue to engage the student except for short phrases. (Advisor will see you in 10 minutes, etc.)
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Lynn2000 on February 12, 2014, 03:29:02 PM
Yes, for some reason, "calm down" spoken in even a soothing tone seems to set people off more, sometimes. Maybe something like, "I can see that you are very upset about this, and I'm going to do what I can to help you. Why don't you have a seat right over there and I'll get right to work on this?" Of course tone is very important--I'm thinking calm, helpful, "I'm on your side." Obviously the same words could be said as chilly or patronizing, and that wouldn't help things.

If you've got water right there, I like the idea of offering her a drink. If you can do a sort of "just between us girls" tone well, you might say something like, "I think the dean will be free in about 15 minutes. [if true] Do you want to go to the ladies' room and freshen up first?" I think the goal is to sort of "break the cycle" of her being upset--if you can distract her for a few minutes, like by sitting quietly or washing her face or having a drink, that might stop the escalation. Perhaps you could give her some paper and a pen, and suggest she start writing out her complaint while she waits? Even some random form that looks official--reading the instructions, checking boxes, etc. might make her quiet down and focus. You want her to feel like she's been heard, and that you're on her side, and you're actively doing something to help--again, not necessarily for her sake, but to help her calm down and stop making a scene.

I like LemonZen's paraphrase-back approach too.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 12, 2014, 03:31:02 PM
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.

Perhaps not, but I do think that being soothing can encourage the drama-prone.

I think the OP is perhaps overextending her role--and I think it would REALLY overextend her role to offer people tissues, glass of water, etc. Just say, "I'm sorry you're upset; please have a seat and give me a moment to think what I can do to help you. No, please sit down over there, I need to concentrate."
  Or maybe even, "Is there a friend you can call, since you're upset and need someone to talk to? Perhaps that might help you."

I do agree that saying "calm down" isn't going to help. I once was having a dispute w/ a car-rental person when our reserved car seat wasn't available at the airport at midnight, and she just stood there, looking at us, as I held my sleeping two-year-old. I wasn't going to break the law by leaving the airport without one, and every suggestion I'd had, she completely countered with something non helpful ("the manager's gone home" "No other rental agency has one either"). So I got a little testy; not as bad as many people might be, but I was definitely upset.
    She said, sort of snotty-scoldingly, "I'm not going to help you unless you calm down." I blew up--she should be helping me, period; it shouldn't be conditional. You're customer service, and your company screwed up, you fix it no matter how rude the customer is. And it wasn't "helping" me to get me the thing I reserved; you're not "helping" *me* by fixing your company's screw-up. And she hadn't seen "non calmed down" yet!!
    Fortunately, I was smart enough to say one sentence and turn away (I gasped so loud after she said that, and said, "you won't help me -unless- I calm down?!"), and leave everything to my DH.

So yeah, if you want to say "calm down," you need to camouflage it quite a bit.

I like the, "I think it might be in your best interests if you can collect your emotions, and direct them into firmness and clarity" concept.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 03:34:48 PM
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.

Perhaps not, but I do think that being soothing can encourage the drama-prone.

I am not saying to be soothing either - that, to me, comes across as patronizing.  I am saying acknowledge the person has a complaint and that you are addressing it.  No need to soothe or coach - that would infuriate me, personally. 

I liked your story about the rental car.  That is exactly what I mean when I say it is very likely to backfire if you confront someone who is agitated or insiste they calm down because it comes across as very belittling and patronizing.  It would infuriate me even more.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Arila on February 12, 2014, 03:40:31 PM
I think there a lot of things which are true and make sense -- "You can better advocate for yourself if you are collected and articulate" But pretty much none of them can be said to a person in the moment. It just won't get through. Honestly, when I get weepy about something, Thinking about the fact that I'm weepy and wishing that I wasn't sometimes breaks the whole dam loose!

I would worry a bit less about someone visibly upset in front of prospective students, they can come to any number of conclusions, including "Wow, this school is great, they will take care of me even when things are rough!"
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: wolfie on February 12, 2014, 03:47:08 PM
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.

Perhaps not, but I do think that being soothing can encourage the drama-prone.

I think the OP is perhaps overextending her role--and I think it would REALLY overextend her role to offer people tissues, glass of water, etc. Just say, "I'm sorry you're upset; please have a seat and give me a moment to think what I can do to help you. No, please sit down over there, I need to concentrate."
  Or maybe even, "Is there a friend you can call, since you're upset and need someone to talk to? Perhaps that might help you."


that would make me even more upset. I don't need a friend - I need you to help me with my issue! It sounds pretty patronizing. I think the best thing for the OP to do is acknowledge that the person is upset, tell them you will work on getting someone who can help, but that might take a few minutes so could you sit over there while I work on getting them here?
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: dawbs on February 12, 2014, 03:49:18 PM
I'm going to echo that telling someone to calm down has good odds as being seen as patronizing and is unlikely to help--honestly, by the time people are college students they generally will either know how to calm themselves down or else they know they need their 'head of steam' to hold it together until they finish their conversation.

I talka lot of students down during a day too, and I find spelling out what the next step(s) will be doesn't calm them down but gives them expectations.
"Okay, I have contacted the dean, she will be happy to meet with you at 3:00.  You are welcome to wait in one of the chairs in the lobby or to go somewhere else until 3:00 when she will meet with you" (you're not telling them 'go away', but you are giving options as to where to be--and one of the options isn't hovering at your desk).
When that^ doesn't work, I follow with something like "I'm afraid that I'm not able to help further until you take it up with the dean--and that appointment is for 3:00.  For now, though, I do have to get back to work and since I'm working with confidential student data, I'm going to have to ask that you either take a break and go elsewhere or wait in the lobby area until your 3:00 appointment"

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: violinp on February 12, 2014, 03:50:32 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 03:51:55 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down. 
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: wolfie on February 12, 2014, 03:53:52 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

I agree - this is an area you need to tread very carefully because most things will seem patronizing or an attempt to not help.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: figee on February 12, 2014, 03:57:37 PM
The other thing is that people 'often' tell women that they are upset and need to calm down.  There is a difference between being upset and being angry, so for me when people say that I'm upset and need to calm down, they are telling me: first that I'm not angry, when I am, second, that I have no right to be angry, and third that my legitimate anger has no place in public.

So that very rarely ends well for the person telling me to calm down. 
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: violinp on February 12, 2014, 03:59:51 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TurtleDove on February 12, 2014, 04:10:36 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.

Well, you have completely changed the facts.  For me, when I am upset and angry I am in fact fully in control on my emotions.  I am not sobbing or loud or difficult to understand. If someone were to tell me to calm down it would come across as dismissing my legitimate concerns.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Psychopoesie on February 12, 2014, 04:36:01 PM
Agree with PPs who say don't say calm down and don't soothe. I'd also add don't interrupt - let them say their piece. Acknowledge what the person is feeling, summarise their issue, tell them what you're going to do about it (e.g. Schedule an appointment at the earliest opportunity with the relevant advisor). Great idea to ask them to take a seat while you make some calls. Fine to offer tissues if someone's crying.

If you genuinely can't understand what the person is saying because they are so upset (as violinp mentions), you might say, "I can see you're upset and want to help. I'm having a hard time hearing what you're saying though." You can always ask them to speak up or slow down a little to help you hear what they're saying. Just be prepared for them to still be upset, angry or crying - only speaking more clearly.

It doesn't sound like the students you are talking to are being aggressive so it doesn't sound like a moment to threaten to call security or actually call them.

If this is part of your job, I'd also check if your workplace has any training to help its public contact staff deal with difficult customers/students.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Arila on February 12, 2014, 04:54:50 PM
I just wanted to point out that the exceptionally upset student from the OP was "Almost in tears" Not sobbing or blubbing or stuttering.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: laud_shy_girl on February 12, 2014, 05:27:58 PM
What about redirecting her energy.

If the altercation was one incident, give her a pen and paper and ask her to write an incident report while you contact xyz.

This will get her calmed down as she will need to sit and think and the act of putting it on paper can be therapeutic in and of itself.

You should ask your employer for conflict resolution training. I did it for one job and have found it invaluable in all aspects of my life.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Onyx_TKD on February 12, 2014, 05:38:59 PM
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.

If you can't understand what they're saying, then the problem is that you can't understand them, not that they're crying. There may be a correlation between people crying and you having difficulty understanding them, but the lack of understanding is still the actual problem. Your earlier post said "I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down," not "I can't understand you." No one here has said that telling someone you're having trouble understanding them is unreasonable.

Also, telling someone who's sobbing that you can't talk to them until they've "calmed down" isn't likely to solve your problem. IME, sobbing is a very unpleasant activity, and people don't do it by choice (I suppose someone might fake it by choice, but genuine sobbing? No.). Telling them you can't help them while they're sobbing isn't going to enable them to switch off the tears (unless they're faking it). However, telling them that you can't understand what they're saying might help them find a way to actually communicate. Even if they can't stop crying, they might be able to speak more slowly, consciously try to enunciate better, or write it down instead of talking. They're not going to realize they should try those things if all you'll tell them is to calm down before you'll help.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Seraphia on February 12, 2014, 05:50:57 PM
What about redirecting her energy.

If the altercation was one incident, give her a pen and paper and ask her to write an incident report while you contact xyz.

This will get her calmed down as she will need to sit and think and the act of putting it on paper can be therapeutic in and of itself.

You should ask your employer for conflict resolution training. I did it for one job and have found it invaluable in all aspects of my life.

I think this is the optimal idea. Clearly, the student felt like she needed the steam of her upset to power her through actually making the complaint. Helping her formulate her argument will be more productive for her by giving her a way to direct her emotions into action rather than at the OP. Even saying: "Ok, if you want, I have pen and paper here so you can make a list of the points you want to make with the dean, s/he will be here in fifteen minutes," might be enough.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: sweetonsno on February 12, 2014, 05:57:59 PM
I absolutely agree that you shouldn't tell them to "calm down" unless you want to guarantee that they won't.

I like the idea of repeating to them their problem as you understand it. That immediately tells them that you have listened to them. Then, I think you can offer them a seat or excuse yourself while you take whatever action you can. Let them know what you're doing.

"That sounds very frustrating. Let me make sure I'm clear on the situation. As I understand it, you're disputing a late penalty because of extenuating circumstances. Dr. X took off the regular late penalty because you submitted your report two days late. However, the assignment was late because you lost power and internet due to the snowstorm and were unable to reach him or get to campus. You've already talked with him and he says his decision is final. You'd like to appeal your grade on that assignment. Is that right? Okay, you'll need to talk to the departmental chair. I think he is in a meeting right now, but I'll call his assistant, Shirley Ulissen to find out. If he's still in the meetings, she'll be able to schedule an appointment for you. If you'd like to have a seat, I'll give her a call right now." Then look away from the student (and down at your phone, directory, whatever) and start doing something so she knows you are taking action.

I do think that most people who are upset in a case like this mostly want to be heard and understood, have someone acknowledge their anger/sadness, and then have the assurance that someone is taking action on their behalf.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 12, 2014, 06:15:00 PM
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.

Perhaps not, but I do think that being soothing can encourage the drama-prone.

I think the OP is perhaps overextending her role--and I think it would REALLY overextend her role to offer people tissues, glass of water, etc. Just say, "I'm sorry you're upset; please have a seat and give me a moment to think what I can do to help you. No, please sit down over there, I need to concentrate."
  Or maybe even, "Is there a friend you can call, since you're upset and need someone to talk to? Perhaps that might help you."


that would make me even more upset. I don't need a friend - I need you to help me with my issue! It sounds pretty patronizing. I think the best thing for the OP to do is acknowledge that the person is upset, tell them you will work on getting someone who can help, but that might take a few minutes so could you sit over there while I work on getting them here?

I would do the "friend you can call?" if they didn't take the first "Why don't you have a seat while I figure out what the best move forward is" suggestion, or if they were going on and on.
    I would actually intend it to be a hint that they were a bit over the top--and so I'd only use it on someone who was escalating.

And I'm also on the "people want their frustration to be acknowledged and to feel heard and understood"--but I felt that the OP had already done it.
   Though, she did say "soothing," and maybe that's the problem; maybe it's coming across as soothing but not as validating or helpful. In which case, being less soothing and more practical and directed would be a good choice.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Winterlight on February 12, 2014, 06:26:00 PM
The other thing is that people 'often' tell women that they are upset and need to calm down.  There is a difference between being upset and being angry, so for me when people say that I'm upset and need to calm down, they are telling me: first that I'm not angry, when I am, second, that I have no right to be angry, and third that my legitimate anger has no place in public.

So that very rarely ends well for the person telling me to calm down.

Good point.  I've been told to calm down by guys who were frothing- but because I'm female, somehow I was more emotional than the person who just punched his hand through the sheetrock. /eyeroll
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on February 12, 2014, 06:39:42 PM
I'm one who is hard to understand when I'm crying and I know that cause my friend has told me that when we talk on the phone and I'm upset, I get "screechy" and she can't understand me.   She knows better than to say "calm down" but when she does say she can't understand me I do take a deep breath.

Perhaps "I understand you're angry, but I'm having a hard time understanding you. I understand you want to keep this head of steam going, but would you like a paper and pen so you can write out and organize your thoughts while you wait?" could work?
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 12, 2014, 06:44:02 PM
The other thing is that people 'often' tell women that they are upset and need to calm down.  There is a difference between being upset and being angry, so for me when people say that I'm upset and need to calm down, they are telling me: first that I'm not angry, when I am, second, that I have no right to be angry, and third that my legitimate anger has no place in public.

So that very rarely ends well for the person telling me to calm down.

Good point.  I've been told to calm down by guys who were frothing- but because I'm female, somehow I was more emotional than the person who just punched his hand through the sheetrock. /eyeroll

I think that's what upset me so much at the car-rental place.

I was angry, and I felt it was justifiable. We'd been reasonable, then firm, and she still stood there just looking at us, doing nothing. It felt as if I *had* to escalate. Especially because I was mad -at her-, I felt she was the cause of my upset.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: SamiHami on February 12, 2014, 07:19:39 PM
She was teary but I had no trouble understanding her so that wasn't a problem in this particular instance. I really like the suggestion of offering a pen & pad to let her write down her thoughts. It seems it would give her something to do while I am doing what I need to do.

I agree that  encouraging people to calm down is a bad idea. I will definitely curb that in future situations.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Oh Joy on February 12, 2014, 07:36:29 PM
I see the problem as being that 'calming down' means two different things...emotion and behavior.  When you tell someone to calm down when you mean behavior and they hear you tell them how to feel, well, that can cause all sorts of issues when dealing with someone who is upset.

I suggest acknowledging the emotion and requesting the behavior.  Situation Dictates Procedure, but an approach more like 'That sounds frustrating.  I'm going to see what I can do to help.  Can I ask you to wait in our guest chairs while I look something up/make a phone call/summon a unicorn?' may be both courteous and effective.

Best wishes.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: dawbs on February 12, 2014, 09:17:32 PM
Several people mentioned re-iterating your understanding of the problem...this is individual, but I would *not* do that.

If I say to a student "So, what I"m hearing you say is that Professor McPhealy insulted your mother and picked his nose and offended you", the odds that my boss is told "well, the lady at the desk *said* that she understood it was offensive" are much to high.
Might just be me--if I were in a different role, I might handle it differently, but, IME, with upset students, repeating back their problem is often taken as a validation and as an assumption that I will take their side and make my boss understand/take their side--which is *not* going to be the case.
YMMV, ov course.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: blarg314 on February 13, 2014, 02:56:20 AM

In the case in the OP, I think I would respond with "I know that you're angry. But we can't do anything until your advisor gets here, so you'll need to wait," maybe point them out to a seat, and then go on with my job.  The fact that she wants to throw a temper tantrum in the lobby because she wants her problem solved *right now*, when the person helping her is 1) being polite and helpful and 2) has just done what can be done right now to the best of their ability doesn't mean I have to suddenly flip into trauma counsellor mode. I find that when someone is determined to be angry, and there is nothing you can do that will satisfy them, *nothing* you do, no matter how tactful, is going to make them calm down.

If it were a case of someone who was actually hysterical - crying uncontrollably, can't be understood, having a full out meltdown, is there a campus service that can be called for emergencies - health services, counselling centre, etc., who could send over someone who has expertise in dealing with psychological issues? Because that's not really the kind of thing I'd expect a random admin/help desk person to be able to deal with.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: cicero on February 13, 2014, 03:32:36 AM

In the case in the OP, I think I would respond with "I know that you're angry. But we can't do anything until your advisor gets here, so you'll need to wait," maybe point them out to a seat, and then go on with my job.  The fact that she wants to throw a temper tantrum in the lobby because she wants her problem solved *right now*, when the person helping her is 1) being polite and helpful and 2) has just done what can be done right now to the best of their ability doesn't mean I have to suddenly flip into trauma counsellor mode. I find that when someone is determined to be angry, and there is nothing you can do that will satisfy them, *nothing* you do, no matter how tactful, is going to make them calm down.

If it were a case of someone who was actually hysterical - crying uncontrollably, can't be understood, having a full out meltdown, is there a campus service that can be called for emergencies - health services, counselling centre, etc., who could send over someone who has expertise in dealing with psychological issues? Because that's not really the kind of thing I'd expect a random admin/help desk person to be able to deal with.
thank you. that's what's been bothering me about this - the 'crying' or 'almost crying' shouldnt' even be an issue here. this student has to learn that there are ways to do things "in the real world" - and crying when you don't get your way isn't one of them. and the OP shouldn't have to worry, walk around on eggshells in case a student decides to withdraw or throw a tantrum in the hallway. I *really* can't imagine a situation where a potential student will see an hysterical student crying about her grades and "the stupid bureaucrats didn't even listen to me" and go "oh, no way am i going to this school! they made her cry!".

I'm with the "be nice/functional/practical and try to ignore the tears" team. i'm not saying to be mean, and you might want to have a box of tissues at the ready, but that's about as far as i would go.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: English1 on February 13, 2014, 04:17:29 AM
I get all the 'fun' jobs at work and that includes dealing with any internal conflict/complaints from clients. Because I'm good at calming people down and sorting out the actual problem. I think 10 years of marriage to someone with mental health problems, and a relative who has psychotic episodes has taught me the way to deal with anyone who's flaring up.

Telling people to 'calm down', is like throwing oil on to a fire. They feel the way they feel, and they may well have good reasons for feeling that way.

The best way is to stay very calm yourself, acknowledge how they are feeling (without agreeing or taking a position on what they are saying), and tell them what you are going to do, and what they need to do. This makes them deflate like balloons and brings them very quickly into mutually resolving the issue with you, and away from being in conflict with you. It helps them to see that you are not their problem - you are their source of solving the problem.

So in this case I would say something along the lines of 'I can see you are very angry about this. What I'm going to do is call an advisor now, and get them to come and see you about it.  You need to sit in the waiting area and after the call, I can let you know what time they will be here." With a nice normal smile and a gesture towards the seating. If they don't move and start up again say '" I'm going to help you by calling the advisor. I can't do that while you are talking to me at the same time. Please wait in the seating area and I'll be with you again in a few minutes'. Smile, gesture.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: pierrotlunaire0 on February 13, 2014, 09:08:05 AM
I am often the one called when a customer is upset/angry/whatever.  "Hi, I am Pierrot.  Tell me what happened and I will figure out who is best to address your concerns." 

As they talk, I might interject with small clarifying questions: "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I want to make certain I am understanding.  The instructor originally said A, but not they are saying B?"  This helps in that it proves that you are listening, and it also helps them calm down in that they have to stop and clarify their words, and that is calming.

Once they are done, you summarize: "What I heard you say is."  Once the two of you agree, then: "Okay, I think the correct person for you to see is Dean Bean.  Let me call her.  Why don't you have a seat while I call?"

Now, if the person still wants to ramp it up, I have said, "Please, I am trying to help you.  You have to give me a chance to do what I can."

I don't say calm down, but I do redirect them into behaviors that will help them calm down.  If there is a wait for Dean Bean, I will inform them: "She will be a few minutes.  I will keep you informed."  And I do.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: bopper on February 13, 2014, 09:16:29 AM
I agree...saying calm down never ever makes me want to calm down.

How about "Take a deep breath"...also (as I am sure you do) sound like you care about this and not a flat "I will get someone for you" but a concerned "Oh that must be frustrating! Let me get Mrs.. SoandSo, she is the one that can help you with this."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Lynn2000 on February 13, 2014, 09:34:20 AM
I've mentioned this here before, about my friend/former co-worker Emma, who was in over her head at work and consequently very stressed about it. I had been assigned to help her with her project and we would sit in the conference room working, and she would get so stressed out that she would start sobbing, and telling me all the bad things in her life at the same time (sobbing so hard I couldn't understand her sometimes). (Which I understand is a bigger reaction than in the OP.)

Pretty early on I decided that I was just going to sit there quietly and wait for her to calm down on her own. I didn't actually do anything else (like read a magazine) but I thought about my grocery list and what was on TV that night and so forth. In other words I distanced myself from the situation and didn't take her distress on myself. Then when she had calmed down I jumped right back in to what we'd been talking about before. "Okay, so, I had suggested increasing the font size on these slides..."

I didn't want to escalate the situation, of course, but it also wasn't my job to be her counselor, and I found it unprofessional that she ended up crying at work so often, rather than exploring other coping mechanisms or doing other concrete things to help herself in life. So I just waited her out. I'm not a huggy, soothing kind of person, I'm afraid.  :-\ It's a little different because it was just the two of us in a room and I didn't have to worry about what third parties might see.

I think the OP said this doesn't happen often, but it might be worth mentioning it to a boss and asking about any available training or policies. In some ways it's etiquette, but it other ways it's business policy--for example, if the OP has confidential material she needs to secure before leaving her desk or due to security concerns she can't leave a student attended in a room, that limits her options. Or maybe there are phrases or actions she needs to avoid using, for business liability reasons.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: jaxsue on February 13, 2014, 11:25:02 AM
I'd say, very calmly, "You can either calm down and stop disrupting this office, or you can leave until you are able to deal with the situation calmly.  Those are your only options at this point, and if you cannot choose one for yourself, I will have campus security assist you with making your decision."

I would only do that if your supervisor has your back because if the student complains it could go very badly if the OP . Honestly if I was upset that response would make it so much worse.

ITA.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Alli8098 on February 13, 2014, 12:23:02 PM
  I would avoid saying the "c word"* , its often not soothing.  Unfortunately I don't have much beyond that.

*Calm down

I admit when my husband has told me to calm down when I'm upset that will usually set me off.  I don't know why, but it does and poor DH deals with it.  I too though have been guilty of saying calm down to others.  Which I realize if I don't want it said to me I shouldn't say it to anyone else.  Sometimes verbal habits are hard to break and takes practice.   In all of my years doing customer service and small stints working as a receptionist you always must be assertive.  When I've had someone who is very upset and won't calm down I look them right in the eye and politely say "I understand you're upset, I'm doing everything I'm able to to help you.  Please wait and I will contact the person who can best help you with your situation."  I then pick up that phone ASAP and that usually cues them to be silent, sit down, step away what have you while I try to contact the appropriate person.  This way I'm not being rude and letting them know I understand how their feeling and that I am in fact trying to help them.  This will usually in itself get them to tone it down a bit.  Sometimes when people realize that you are NOT the one who can fix the issue the dramatics die down.

Unfortunately though you will have the "drama queens/kings" that come your way.  In all cases remain polite and assertive, don't let them drag you into the middle.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: LadyL on February 13, 2014, 12:48:05 PM

How about "Take a deep breath"...also (as I am sure you do) sound like you care about this and not a flat "I will get someone for you" but a concerned "Oh that must be frustrating! Let me get Mrs.. SoandSo, she is the one that can help you with this."

I have used "do me a favor - take a deep breath" with people who are really upset. It gives them something to do/focus on for a second, and then you can say "I see you're upset. What I'm going to do is contact Dean Whoever. Why don't you sit down and write down what happened while I do that."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Surianne on February 13, 2014, 02:32:25 PM
I definitely agree with those who have said "calm down" isn't useful.  I'm a bit of a frustration crier, and the only thing worse than "calm down" is when someone says "breathe" or "take a deep breath" as if I'm too stupid to live.  When I hear that, my whole vision goes black with rage and it's very, very hard for me to remember not to escalate the situation.  Being condescended to is not even remotely useful when I'm upset.

I really like the suggestions of letting her know what the next steps are, that you've heard her, and that you're going to help her by doing X thing.  The idea of showing her a place to sit and giving her pen and paper to jot down some thoughts is a good one, too.  When I've been in a situation like this, showing up in person at the office is usually my last ditch effort.  It means I've been trying to resolve this for a while and need help, not judgement on my emotions -- so having the person at the desk be proactive is very helpful and calming.

OP, I think your recognition that you don't want to sound patronizing is great.  It definitely makes a big difference for me when I'm upset if admin staff take me seriously.  And when I've been on the admin site, I've found that respecting a student's concerns goes a long way toward diffusing the situation.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: blarg314 on February 13, 2014, 06:47:21 PM

thank you. that's what's been bothering me about this - the 'crying' or 'almost crying' shouldnt' even be an issue here. this student has to learn that there are ways to do things "in the real world" - and crying when you don't get your way isn't one of them. and the OP shouldn't have to worry, walk around on eggshells in case a student decides to withdraw or throw a tantrum in the hallway. I *really* can't imagine a situation where a potential student will see an hysterical student crying about her grades and "the stupid bureaucrats didn't even listen to me" and go "oh, no way am i going to this school! they made her cry!".

That expresses it nicely.

We're dealing with an adult here, and a non-emergency complaint. If a student were coming in to report an assault and was losing control, for example, I'd react totally differently. But she's coming in to complain about a grade, and an adult in that situation should be able to make a complaint and go through the resolution process without melting down. I'm picturing someone reacting a similar way to a unfair job review - stomping into the head boss's office, nearly in tears, demanding that something be done about it *now*, and insisting that they want to stay made and have no intention of calming down until they get exactly what they want. While clients come in and out of the office.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: JeanFromBNA on February 13, 2014, 06:59:52 PM
The best way is to stay very calm yourself, acknowledge how they are feeling (without agreeing or taking a position on what they are saying), and tell them what you are going to do, and what they need to do. This makes them deflate like balloons and brings them very quickly into mutually resolving the issue with you, and away from being in conflict with you. It helps them to see that you are not their problem - you are their source of solving the problem.

I suggest using "we:" "Here's what we are going to do:  I am going to get you an appointment with Dr. So and so.  You need to tell me when you are available.  Then we can get this sorted out."  If it's a matter of waiting for someone, I love the idea of giving the person a pen and paper to write notes.  Gives anger a proper direction.

And I totally agree with Figgee on this:

The other thing is that people 'often' tell women that they are upset and need to calm down.  There is a difference between being upset and being angry, so for me when people say that I'm upset and need to calm down, they are telling me: first that I'm not angry, when I am, second, that I have no right to be angry, and third that my legitimate anger has no place in public.

So that very rarely ends well for the person telling me to calm down.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: MariaE on February 14, 2014, 01:34:01 AM

How about "Take a deep breath"...also (as I am sure you do) sound like you care about this and not a flat "I will get someone for you" but a concerned "Oh that must be frustrating! Let me get Mrs.. SoandSo, she is the one that can help you with this."

I have used "do me a favor - take a deep breath" with people who are really upset. It gives them something to do/focus on for a second, and then you can say "I see you're upset. What I'm going to do is contact Dean Whoever. Why don't you sit down and write down what happened while I do that."

To me "take a deep breath" sounds just as if not even more condescending than "calm down".

I'd go with the "write down what happened" tactic.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Fliss on February 14, 2014, 03:33:49 AM

Lots of experience being the person who's being steamed at here, and I always use the same approach. Doesn't matter how stressed or crying or yelling the person is, I always go with the following:

Hold both hands out, palms towards the stressee, and in a firm voice say "Wait." When they give you their attention, do a rolling motion with your hands and say "ok, first, breathe", and take a large breath. The stressee will unconsciously do this with you. Then, holding your hands palm down, say "now, calm breaths." Make the rolling motion again and breathe with the other person twice. Then offer a tissue box if available, or some water if there's any to hand, while saying "now, steady and calm." The tissues allow the stressee to focus on something else and breaks the moment.

Now you have control of the situation again, gently but firmly state what will happen. "Ok, you have an appointment with Professor Dinglebat at 3pm. We have a small cafe you can sit in and gather your thoughts until then." After that, you need to play it by ear.

The important bit is that you take control of the situation, reiterate what is going to happen, and be firm.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Psychopoesie on February 14, 2014, 04:42:05 AM

Lots of experience being the person who's being steamed at here, and I always use the same approach. Doesn't matter how stressed or crying or yelling the person is, I always go with the following:

Hold both hands out, palms towards the stressee, and in a firm voice say "Wait." When they give you their attention, do a rolling motion with your hands and say "ok, first, breathe", and take a large breath. The stressee will unconsciously do this with you. Then, holding your hands palm down, say "now, calm breaths." Make the rolling motion again and breathe with the other person twice. Then offer a tissue box if available, or some water if there's any to hand, while saying "now, steady and calm." The tissues allow the stressee to focus on something else and breaks the moment.

Now you have control of the situation again, gently but firmly state what will happen. "Ok, you have an appointment with Professor Dinglebat at 3pm. We have a small cafe you can sit in and gather your thoughts until then." After that, you need to play it by ear.

The important bit is that you take control of the situation, reiterate what is going to happen, and be firm.

Sorry but this approach would totally wind me up, not calm me down. Maybe coming from someone I knew really really well (like a loved one). Even then...

From a complete stranger? Telling me to wait and then breathe calmly would come across as very condescending. It would seem like I hadn't been listened to, my feelings dismissed, and I was then ordered round by someone who appeared to feel superior to me. The hand gestures would just seem odd. YMMV. It's not a technique I've seen suggested before - maybe it's a new approach?

Having a range of strategies helps and finding the ones that work best for you (general you). That's where training can help big time. If dealing with these situations is part of your job, OP, please see if they offer some. It can really help give confidence in managing this sort of stuff - which is a pretty common one in any customer service environment.




Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on February 14, 2014, 06:34:32 AM
YMMV, but I don't really see "take a deep breath" as being condescending, though I suppose it could depend on the tone.   At least it doesn't affect me the same as "calm down" would. 

Course I did think of another phrase to *not* say: "Don't cry" cause for me, that'll ensure I'll cry more, only like a furious cry.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: LadyL on February 14, 2014, 08:31:22 AM
YMMV, but I don't really see "take a deep breath" as being condescending, though I suppose it could depend on the tone.   At least it doesn't affect me the same as "calm down" would. 

Course I did think of another phrase to *not* say: "Don't cry" cause for me, that'll ensure I'll cry more, only like a furious cry.

I should clarify that "take a deep breath" is, in my experience, more appropriate for someone on the verge of crying, or actually crying, than someone who is angry and yelling. People who are angry don't often like being told what to do, period. Whereas people who are crying often feel desperate, overwhelmed, etc. and are looking for direction and help. At least that's been my experience.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 14, 2014, 10:26:29 AM
YMMV, but I don't really see "take a deep breath" as being condescending, though I suppose it could depend on the tone.   At least it doesn't affect me the same as "calm down" would. 

Course I did think of another phrase to *not* say: "Don't cry" cause for me, that'll ensure I'll cry more, only like a furious cry.

I should clarify that "take a deep breath" is, in my experience, more appropriate for someone on the verge of crying, or actually crying, than someone who is angry and yelling. People who are angry don't often like being told what to do, period. Whereas people who are crying often feel desperate, overwhelmed, etc. and are looking for direction and help. At least that's been my experience.

I so agree.

And I think tone of voice can be hugely helpful.

A smiling, friendly, encouraging tone will help almost any word choice go over better.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on February 14, 2014, 12:49:09 PM
YMMV, but I don't really see "take a deep breath" as being condescending, though I suppose it could depend on the tone.   At least it doesn't affect me the same as "calm down" would. 

Course I did think of another phrase to *not* say: "Don't cry" cause for me, that'll ensure I'll cry more, only like a furious cry.

I should clarify that "take a deep breath" is, in my experience, more appropriate for someone on the verge of crying, or actually crying, than someone who is angry and yelling. People who are angry don't often like being told what to do, period. Whereas people who are crying often feel desperate, overwhelmed, etc. and are looking for direction and help. At least that's been my experience.

That I will agree with.  For me being upset=cry, angry=cry, sympathy=cry, and embarrassed=cry. It's extremely annoying and tends to make me madder at myself which of course feeds the loop.  ::)  I wish it was something I could control, but it's very much an automatic thing with me. 

Though knowing this does make it easier to deal with as at least most times I will compose myself before going to talk to someone about it.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: earthgirl on February 14, 2014, 01:38:19 PM
Stuff like this is relatively common in my workplace, because the demographic that I work with is often impulsive, confrontational, and also frequently failed by the system.  What I usually do in these situations:
1.  Acknowledge the student's anger/frustration.  "I can hear that you're angry about this."
2.  Tell them what I *can* do for them.  "What I'm going to do is put in a call/leave a note for..."

Sometimes I need to go through a few cycles of 1 & 2, and if I get nowhere I'll go to step 3:
3.  Ask them what they think I should be doing about it.  I know that this can be risky (since there's the chance that maybe they'll come up with an idea that you *can* do but don't want to, or that they don't understand is impossible), but in my experience when I ask my angry clients what exactly they would have me do (beyond what I already have done), it at least gives them pause.  Usually.   There have been a few people who apparently think I'm carrying around a time machine in my pocket, but you can't win them all.  OP, in your case, I might say something like, "Student, the advisor is on his way to come talk to you, is there something else you think I can help you with?"

I really like the idea that several PPs had of having the student write down her thoughts.  It's helpful to the student, but it also gets her out of your hair.

Agree to try to avoid using the phrase "calm down".  Depending on the situation, if they're just ranting and raving and repeating themselves, I might put my hand up and say, "Ok, let me see if I understand what's going on, what I'm hearing is that..." and then start step 1.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on February 14, 2014, 01:46:30 PM
And extract yourself.

You're not their therapist, their friend, none of that.

Once you've done what is specifically needed from you for the situation at hand, they need to leave you alone and go be upset somewhere else. They shouldn't be taking up your time and sapping your energy with their angst or anger.


And that's when you say, "I'm sorry, I need to get back to my work."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Raintree on February 14, 2014, 02:26:43 PM
"I can understand that you're angry, and I am doing my best to help you get to the right person. Please have a seat and  be angry over there someone will be with you shortly."

"But I want to be angry, rant rant rant, pay attention to me!!"

"That's understandable. Now let me work Someone will be with you shortly to work on a solution. Please have a seat."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 01, 2014, 04:59:54 PM
Came home to find the litter box in dire need of help, b/c child one had not done their job the day before. 
Cue child one to inform child two it was their day.
I said I do not care who does it, jsut get it done.  (kids are in high school)

Two hours later, I pass by and still see it has not been done.

"Children, come forth and do the work that needs to be done for your elderly cat!"

Child one, "mom, calm down."

"What do you mean?  I am not yelling.  I am calling my children, to do a job that should not be reminded to do, and hours ago.  Just do it."

"Mom, we will do it when you calm down."

"Huh?"

"Yelling is not going to make us do it.  Find another way."

"I was not yelling; and yes, I am going to stay here until I see one or both of you making a move to clean the box."

"That is not a way to get us to work."

"What is?  What will you tell you kids when they do not do basic chores for an animal we have had 13 years?"

"I do not know.  But you need to calm down."

It was all I could do to not start yelling, having my 18 year old son patronize me.

DD finally did start working on the box.  Haphazardly.  At least the cat was happy enough.

DS's telling me to calm down was only making me mad.  poor cat!!
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Hillia on March 01, 2014, 05:12:40 PM
Well, being disrespectful and defiant to me is not the way to get me to fix your dinner, drive you where you need to go, fork over cash for prom/movies/whatever, or do anything else for you.  You need to knock it off right now.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: PeterM on March 01, 2014, 05:20:48 PM
Well, being disrespectful and defiant to me is not the way to get me to fix your dinner, drive you where you need to go, fork over cash for prom/movies/whatever, or do anything else for you.  You need to knock it off right now.

That's better than my first instinct, which was to punch him in the throat. Calmly.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Outdoor Girl on March 01, 2014, 05:41:48 PM
I'd have grabbed him by the ear and pulled his head down into the vicinity of said litter box.

I distinctly remember my brother being a bit of a butthead one day and my Mom was getting mad.  She was normally a yeller but this day, she just grabbed a handful of DB's very thick hair and pulled, resulting in him going where she wanted him to go.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 01, 2014, 05:46:01 PM
Yeah, I was none too happy with my know-it-all 18 year old right then!! 

He HAS heard me yell before, and I was not yelling.  (DH was asleep)
But, the "tone" of my voice was yelling. 

Yes, I will be anxiously awaiting to see how he parents his future errant children years down the road!  And I will grin, evilly. 

Teenagers, boys especially...know...everything.  And I know so so very little.   ::)
I hear that my IQ will raise once he leaves home for college, and in the upcoming years.
If. he. survives.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RooRoo on March 01, 2014, 10:03:26 PM
DH says about his formerly extremely ignorant stepfather - the older DH gets, the smarter Stepdad is. By now, he looks like a genius.

Back to the OP.
Quote
"But I don't want to calm down! I'm angry and I want to be angry! This needs to be dealt with!"
That right there would make me channel my mother, and say, "You need to grow up!" And, of course, that's even worse than "Calm down." I know, from experience...  :(

As for "Take a deep breath," no. Strangers do not get to tell me what to do with my body. It's just like telling me how I should be eating.

And, if I was the Dean, I'd want to find out if she threw her hissy fit at her Prof, too, and if she did, counsel her a bit. "There's nothing wrong with being angry, it's what you do with it that makes the difference between being taken seriously, or not."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: JeanFromBNA on March 01, 2014, 11:37:06 PM
Wow, Region Mom.  I would be saying through gritted teeth:  "You do not get to tell me what to do.  Ever."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: MariaE on March 02, 2014, 01:19:10 AM
Wow, Region Mom. Hopefully you reprimanded him in some way for speaking to you in that way! (Deliberately not phrased as a question as it's none of my business, I was just shocked by both his actions and that it sounded like he got away with it.)
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: MrTango on March 02, 2014, 08:19:42 AM
"I do not know.  But you need to calm down."

To be honest, I would have started actually yelling.  It would have been my security guard voice amplified by my musical training, at full volume about six inches from his face.  After a few minutes of chewing him out, questioning his character, and taking away every privilege he had (except for eating, sleeping, and going to school) for the next few weeks, I would have dropped my voice to barely above a whisper and said, "You will take care of the litter box. Now."

When I was a kid, if my mom ended up yelling at us and it woke Dad from a nap, her yelling (and whatever she was yelling about) would be the least of our troubles.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: LadyL on March 02, 2014, 09:27:43 AM
Regionmom, in that situation I'd be tempted to take a deep breath, put on my best unnerving smile, and say in an overly saccharine voice "Calm? Oh, I'm plenty calm. But how calm are you going to feel when I take away <insert privilege here>?"

And later there would be a talk about words that invalidate others and how they are not allowed in the house, from "just calm down" to "you're too sensitive" or "it's not a big deal."
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: jaxsue on March 02, 2014, 09:29:59 AM
Well, being disrespectful and defiant to me is not the way to get me to fix your dinner, drive you where you need to go, fork over cash for prom/movies/whatever, or do anything else for you.  You need to knock it off right now.

ITA! If that is a prevalent attitude, I'd only wash my clothes, make my meals, etc. But then I'm mean that way.  :)
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: bopper on March 02, 2014, 12:10:27 PM
Came home to find the litter box in dire need of help, b/c child one had not done their job the day before. 
Cue child one to inform child two it was their day.
I said I do not care who does it, jsut get it done.  (kids are in high school)

Two hours later, I pass by and still see it has not been done.

"Children, come forth and do the work that needs to be done for your elderly cat!"

Child one, "mom, calm down."

"What do you mean?  I am not yelling.  I am calling my children, to do a job that should not be reminded to do, and hours ago.  Just do it."

"Mom, we will do it when you calm down."

"Huh?"

"Yelling is not going to make us do it.  Find another way."

"I was not yelling; and yes, I am going to stay here until I see one or both of you making a move to clean the box."

"That is not a way to get us to work."

"What is?  What will you tell you kids when they do not do basic chores for an animal we have had 13 years?"

"I do not know.  But you need to calm down."

It was all I could do to not start yelling, having my 18 year old son patronize me.

DD finally did start working on the box.  Haphazardly.  At least the cat was happy enough.

DS's telling me to calm down was only making me mad.  poor cat!!

I think they teach this skill in "Teenagers 101".


If you don't want to do something...

Don't do it.
When mom asks you again, say "I will."
When mom asks you again, say "I said I would do it!"
When mom asks you again, say "Quit bugging me! Now i am not going to do it because you are bugging me so much about it."

An alternative of this is:
(say, a group chore activity.)
Vaguely agree but don't give a time frame
Go to the area where the chore is to be done but don't tell anyone, and sit there
When mom says come on, let's do the chore, then you say "I have been waiting for you! THis is ridiculous" and storm off.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: zinzin on March 02, 2014, 01:53:10 PM
Came home to find the litter box in dire need of help, b/c child one had not done their job the day before. 
Cue child one to inform child two it was their day.
I said I do not care who does it, jsut get it done.  (kids are in high school)

Two hours later, I pass by and still see it has not been done.

"Children, come forth and do the work that needs to be done for your elderly cat!"

Child one, "mom, calm down."

"What do you mean?  I am not yelling.  I am calling my children, to do a job that should not be reminded to do, and hours ago.  Just do it."

"Mom, we will do it when you calm down."

"Huh?"

"Yelling is not going to make us do it.  Find another way."

"I was not yelling; and yes, I am going to stay here until I see one or both of you making a move to clean the box."

"That is not a way to get us to work."

"What is?  What will you tell you kids when they do not do basic chores for an animal we have had 13 years?"

"I do not know.  But you need to calm down."

It was all I could do to not start yelling, having my 18 year old son patronize me.

DD finally did start working on the box.  Haphazardly.  At least the cat was happy enough.

DS's telling me to calm down was only making me mad.  poor cat!!

18? I'd be inclined towards "until you pay rent, you can deal with the yelling or find somewhere to live that you feel more what you need. I'm sure you'll quickly learn to work under conditions that are not your exact ideal." Also, kid who shirked the chore needs to do it, even if it has since shifted to someone else's "day".
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 02, 2014, 07:35:17 PM
Sorry to sort of derail the thread.  Son is being a twit, no doubt  about it.  We are walking a fine line with him, and he is seeking professional help. 

He was accepted into an excellent university, so therefore knows everything, enough that since he does not like class Y, he decides he does not have to turn in a certain major paper. 

Yeah, he tanked his chance at valedictorian with that one. 

And, he has not been  applying for scholarships, because, "money is not important.  Besides, I will get a good job when I graduate."  He is a National Merit Finalist, but that will only scratch the surface for his tuition. 

I HATE what he has been doing to himself.  But he is 18, and almost fully cooked.  He can cook, do laundry, and even basic sewing, and he behaves great in public,  I get rave reviews from him at church, and surprisingly, even from the teacher whose class he does not like.

Still, his telling me to "calm down" was maddening. 

bopper nailed it. 

TEENS.
Can't live with them, can't kill them.

Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: TootsNYC on March 02, 2014, 07:45:54 PM

bopper nailed it. 

TEENS.
Can't live with them, can't kill them.

But you can maim them, can't you?
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 02, 2014, 08:49:04 PM
He is a black belt in karate.

(he used to be picked on for being geeky/nerdy.  Until...wham!  One kid in junior high did a wrong move on him and he reacted, without thinking.  No one picks on him now!  And, private school, so he was not in trouble.)

and,
I am short and fat and slow.  And tired. 

Too tired to yell, actually. 

So, yeah, whether or not I was calm or yelling (and the two are not always a team)  I did not need to be patronized.

for other types of maiming, DH and I impose logical consequences. 
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: zinzin on March 02, 2014, 09:38:37 PM
Sorry to sort of derail the thread.  Son is being a twit, no doubt  about it.  We are walking a fine line with him, and he is seeking professional help. 

He was accepted into an excellent university, so therefore knows everything, enough that since he does not like class Y, he decides he does not have to turn in a certain major paper. 

Yeah, he tanked his chance at valedictorian with that one. 

And, he has not been  applying for scholarships, because, "money is not important.  Besides, I will get a good job when I graduate."  He is a National Merit Finalist, but that will only scratch the surface for his tuition. 

I HATE what he has been doing to himself.  But he is 18, and almost fully cooked.  He can cook, do laundry, and even basic sewing, and he behaves great in public,  I get rave reviews from him at church, and surprisingly, even from the teacher whose class he does not like.

Still, his telling me to "calm down" was maddening. 

bopper nailed it. 

TEENS.
Can't live with them, can't kill them.

I certainly hope that with that attitude on money and scholarships, he's paying his own way. Sounds to me that it's high time that legal adult starts self supporting and getting rid of the too big for his britches attitude. You realize you don't actually have to tolerate that, right? He's an adult, let him sort his own situation if he can't be a minimum of respectful.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on March 02, 2014, 09:56:31 PM
Reminds me of the sign "Teens, quick, move out, get a job, your own place and pay your own bills now, while you still think you know everything!"
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: MommyPenguin on March 02, 2014, 11:06:30 PM
When my kids are really upset and crying their heads off about something, the best technique is to distract them.  Obviously these aren't little kids, but I wonder if distraction might possibly help?  What if you told them you needed to take down all the details, and then you had them go through this or that (bonus points if you require plenty of "boring" details, like name of student, class, instructor, date that the class meets, etc.).  They'll probably be agitated at points, but going through it all and feeling like you are taking it seriously might help some with the calming down.  I don't know if this would work, or if spending more time on the student/asking these details would be outside your job description, but just an idea.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Arila on March 03, 2014, 11:23:25 AM
My mother once said to me:

"When you grow up, I hope you have children exactly like you."

I wonder if this has had any bearing on my decision to remain childfree. :D
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on March 03, 2014, 01:31:14 PM
Ah, the Mother's Curse, as Bill Cosby puts it.  It works, too.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 03, 2014, 10:41:56 PM
Reminds me of the sign "Teens, quick, move out, get a job, your own place and pay your own bills now, while you still think you know everything!"

I have that framed quote in my kitchen right now!

I also have a plaque that says, "mothers of teens know why some animals eat their young."

(Yes, he is paying his own way for college.)

As for the upset student that started this topic, keep it simple.  too much sympathy could be seen as empathetic.  MommyPenguin had good ideas.  fact gathering, to engage the brain, while emotions settle. 
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: tinkytinky on March 04, 2014, 09:59:33 AM

"Mary" came to the lobby almost in tears because she had a conflict with an instuctor and felt she had been treated unjustly. As always, I tried to be soothing and told her I would find the appropriate person for her to talk to. She continued to stand over my desk and carry on about it, getting herself more tearful and worked up as she spoke. I gently suggested she have a seat and try to calm down a little while we waited for her advisor to come to the lobby to get her. "But I don't want to calm down! I'm angry and I want to be angry! This needs to be dealt with!" and so on.. you get the gist. She was filled with righteous indignation and wanted to keep that head of steam going until she got whatever would satisfy her sense of justice. *Note-I have no idea who was right/wrong here or if the instructor really did do anything wrong or unjust. But that is the student's perception of the situation and that is what matters in the moment.*

I can't ask her to leave and come back when the advisor is ready; the last thing we want is for a student to feel they are not being taken seriously and decide to withdraw and go elsewhere. Nor do we want someone tearful and angry carrying on in the lobby where potential students are getting their first impression of the school, either. It's a catch 22. If I could, I would put her in a separate office/room to wait, but space doesn't allow for that.

How would you suggest handling this?

There should be a small questionaire that the student's fill out with spaces for "Student name, student's contact info, course name, time and day(s) in session, instructor's name" and then a large area for the student to fill in the conflict/question.

In the case here, have tissues ready, and place the box next to her. you don't have to say anything like calm down, the visual clues of handing her a tissue shows that you are trying to listen and taking her serious. Tell her you are going to get the proper person to speak with her, but in the mean time, fill out this form for the person in charge to refer back to (it isn't a bad idea anyway to have a written documentation of this as well). "and when you are through, bring it back to me. The bathroom is down the hall and to the left so you can freshen up before you meet with Mr. X" having to fill out the form shows you are taking it serious, and will naturally calm them down. Having to write things out makes people stop and think so they can be clear in their wording.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: bopper on March 04, 2014, 01:13:35 PM

And, he has not been  applying for scholarships, because, "money is not important.  Besides, I will get a good job when I graduate."  He is a National Merit Finalist, but that will only scratch the surface for his tuition. 
...

TEENS.
Can't live with them, can't kill them.

Might be too late, but College Confidential has a list of colleges that give full rides (or other ) scholarship to National Merit Finalists. 
http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/national-merit-scholarships/649276-nmf-scholarships-an-updated-compilation-p1.html
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: blarg314 on March 04, 2014, 07:00:10 PM

Some kids just insist on learning things the hard way. In RegionMom's case, it's probably going to take getting himself in trouble before he really learns how the world works (my guess would be academic probation for not working hard in boring classes and having his GPA go down, or having to drop out for a year due to financial issues).
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: Lynda_34 on March 06, 2014, 11:56:06 AM
Well there is a news article about a girl on the East Coast who is suing her parents for room/board and tuition.
Google it.
My children are both over 25 and I am very grateful they both survived, but I would never do it again.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: jaxsue on March 06, 2014, 02:06:14 PM
Well there is a news article about a girl on the East Coast who is suing her parents for room/board and tuition.
Google it.
My children are both over 25 and I am very grateful they both survived, but I would never do it again.

That's a girl here in NJ. Yeah, we get in the news for some interesting reasons!  :P
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: blarg314 on March 06, 2014, 06:48:39 PM
Well there is a news article about a girl on the East Coast who is suing her parents for room/board and tuition.

If the girl was really was leaving an abusive situation, then I would regard forcing the parents to pay for an education as reasonable, morally if not legally. If she's a brat who left home rather than follow reasonable rules or deal with reasonable punishments, then I'd say she's on her own. I'm inclined to lean towards the folder - kids fleeing intolerable situations are often angry, hurt and damaged, but not really in a "find a lawyer and pursue a civil suit for cash" way.

This does remind me of a study I read about post-secondary education support for children of divorced parents. IN families of similar socio-economic status, kids from intact families were significantly more likely to have their education paid for by their parents than those from divorced ones. As in 10% of kids vs 90% of kids in a upper-middle class neighbourhood. In some cases, the father was paying for the education of his step kids, or kids of his second wife, but not his kids from the first marriage.
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 06, 2014, 10:21:09 PM
DH and I are happily married, and will contribute what we have been saving for years for DS.  We will not go into debt ourselves.

DS he applied early decision to a private university, and will have to face his own decisions.

As for drama on another level--

I was subbing for a young grade school class.  Lunch rules are that you have to ask the teacher before you leave the table, whether to buy more food, grab a forgotten straw, run to the restroom, etc...

As the two weekly classroom helpers were beginning to push the wheeled trashcan around the table and collect trays, one girl began to sob and pout.

"Where is my FOOD ITEM?  Some one threw it AWAY!"

I went over and discovered that this child had determined on her own, at the end of lunch,  to get up without permission and order a snack food item that if she had asked, would have been told NO for several reasons.

I then realized that the reason she was not with her food item when it was thrown away was because she left for the restroom, without permission.

I checked with another teacher (I am a sub) and then went to girl, who was ramping up the drama, "That was MY food item!!  Why was it in the trash?  Girl XYZ is not my friend any more because she thought she was helping me but she was not!"

And I got down to the girl's level and had this chat with her-
"Did you disobey by ordering food item without permission, at clean-up time, knowing that you would not be allowed?"
"Yes."
"Did you disobey by going to the restroom without permission?"
"Yes."
"Then you do not need to involve anyone else in who moved you food item.  It was your choice to disobey and if you continue to fuss, we can talk more while your classmates are playing at recess."
"But...but" (pout)

Later, when another classmate was hurt enough by a tree to visit the nurse for first aid treatment, this girl suddenly also had to go to the nurse, because an old scratch at the top of her foot that was already scabbing over was bothering her terribly.

I would not let her go, and offered a salve and a bandaid.  She huffed and finally agreed to a bandaid only, after beginning to pull off the wrong shoe - think back of left heel vs. top of right ankle!  lol

Anyway, my rambling point is this-
I was calm and logical and did not give in to the demands of this about 7 year old child.

If I had given her another treat at lunch, or sent her to the nurse, she would learn that she can get what she wants if she fusses enough.  I asked her to find a way to work through her own thoughts and dilemma. 

I never asked her to calm down.  I knew from this thread, and experience, not to say that!

 ;)

I left a note for the teacher and she was thrilled that I did not give in to the drama queen.   
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: LadyL on March 07, 2014, 07:49:22 AM
DH and I are happily married, and will contribute what we have been saving for years for DS.  We will not go into debt ourselves.

DS he applied early decision to a private university, and will have to face his own decisions.


To be frank I am seeing more and more young people basically ruining their lives financially by taking on enormous college debt (anywhere from $50-250K) and if I were you, I'd have your son talk to a recent college grad in this situation for some perspective. Student loans generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Many of these students either can't find jobs, or end up underemployed after graduation, so the money they would normally spend on rent, car payments, etc. has to go towards loans. So they end up living back home in order to get by, a possibility that YOU should be prepared for if he is truly taking on large amounts of debt.

LordL paid for college via loans and his total debt was something like $30K. His field, technology, has been up and down since he left school (dot com bubble, economic crash in 2008) and in his 20s he was mostly underemployed. It is only in the last 5 or so years he has been able to focus on paying them off. It will have taken him 16 years to pay off his loans by the time he's done.  And his debt is "small" compared to what students these days routinely take on (the state university where I work/study is $20K for a single year of undergrad).
Title: Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
Post by: RegionMom on March 07, 2014, 03:01:42 PM
not to completely derail the thread, but DH and I have tried several approaches, from different sources.

DS is working through other stuff, and as much as I hate it, I cannot change this for him.   

Yes, he could have had full rides from other schools.  If I had known he was going to be such a twit, I might have pushed more for other schools. 
But this university fits him very well, and if he survives high school, he should do quiet well in college. 

(This is the same kid that determined getting Eagle in Scouts would not be a benefit.  So, instead, he has aged out, but continues to go to scouts and help others and serve.  Go figure.)

I think he thinks asking for scholarships is asking for help, and he refuses help. 

He is VERY stubborn.