This psychological method will help you disrupt a negative train of thought in a respectful way, and lets a person know you’re listening.
Bernice Ross, CEO and president of and BrokerageUP!, Inc.
Bernice Ross, CEO and president of and BrokerageUP!, Inc., explains how to use the pattern interrupt technique to communicate with angry clients.

Have you ever had a client become agitated, emotional, or even scream at you? In real estate, odds are if you haven’t already, you will at some point. Luckily, Bernice Ross, CEO and president of and BrokerageUP!, Inc., based in Austin, Texas, has a solution that helps disarm people who are angry or upset. 

The psychological technique, which is called pattern interrupt, can be used to disrupt a person's negative train of thought. Say you’re in that moment where a client starts to raise their voice. Begin by saying, “Can I interrupt you for a second? I’d like to take out a notepad to write down what you’re saying,” Ross suggested during her presentation on “Best Practices for Small and Indie Brokerages” during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Boston.

This interruption has a calming effect because you’re using the technique to let the person know you hear them. Saying you want to write down what they are telling you conveys that you value their words and feelings. You’re sending a message that you take them seriously, Ross said.

As you’re taking notes, if the client starts ratcheting up their voice again, gently stop them at appropriate intervals to repeat back what they’ve told you. This continues the pattern interrupt technique, but in a respectful way. Say, “I want to make sure I got this right,” Ross said, adding, “Tell me what we can do to fix this situation.” Your responses should always focus on the solution, not the problem, Ross said. And try your best not to mirror their tone of voice and body language. Stay calm and cool, and speak a little more slowly, and use a lower tone.

At the end of the conversation, say, “Thank you for sharing this for me.” If there’s something you have to do to mitigate the situation, or you need to get back to your client with information, tell them you’ll call them the next morning, Ross said. This allows everyone to sleep on it, and often that’s enough to change a person’s mood.