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There are no standard, guaranteed phrases and strategies that will work for every person in every situation when trying to calm an upset person.  However, there are a few words that when used in empathic statements will at least point us in the right direction when it comes to managing stressful communication situations.
These three words are very effective in helping you to build rapport quickly with someone who is upset but still able to carry on a civil discussion.   The “Feel” in the formula helps you to establish for the upset person that you are aware of their pain, concern, frustration or whatever.   The “Felt” word gives you a way to help the upset person see that they are not alone or weird for feeling the way they feel.  The “Found” word allows you to suggest a possible positive outcome or at least a more positive way for them to think about their situation.

Remember, it’s not the words that are important in this strategy.  It’s the implications behind the words that are more important.  What follows are a number of responses that include these concepts.

“Mr. Johns, I can see how you might feel that way.   Others in your position have felt the same way at first.   In most cases, once they tried the class, they found that it wasn’t as scary as they thought.”
“Ms. Betty, it’s not surprising that you feel this way.   I imagine that a lot of participants have felt this way in the beginning.  In my experience, all of our members have found the overall experience to be pretty good.”

There are three additional phrases you might find useful in helping to build rapport with upset people.  They are referred to as the agreement frame.  You can use these phrases in any communication situation to remain in rapport with another person.   They allow you to share how you feel without discounting the other person’s feelings.

“I appreciate and....”
“I respect and.…”
“I agree and....”

When you use these phrases you are accomplishing three things.  1.) You are maintaining rapport by acknowledging the other person.   2.) You are establishing a possible point of agreement that links you and the upset person rather than separating you.  3.) You also provide an opportunity to re-direct negative energy without directly confronting it.                      


1.“I appreciate your concern for your friends and I think...
2.“I respect your feeling about this and I would like...
3.“I agree that this test is difficult and I wonder if there’s a way we could...