The Angry-Boat

When Alex Hormozi worked at a fur coat dealer as an 18-year-old, one day, an angry customer walked in and started making a scene. “Where’s John? This is ridiculous!” the lady went off. “I spent so much money on this coat, and now this button already came off!”

Just as the woman was really getting fired up, John, the owner of the business, walked out and…started raging too! “Mrs. Johnson! You are right. This is outrageous! Totally unacceptable! Who sold you this coat? We’ll get rid of them right now! Did anyone see you with the button missing? We’ll get to the bottom of this right away!”

Shocked by John’s intense reaction, the lady actually began to calm down. “Uhm, you know, it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, these things happen. I just want it fixed. Can you fix it please?” “It is a big deal!” John continued. “We’ll handle this, just one moment.” John grabs the coat, takes it out back and, within five minutes, returns it to the lady — buttons and all.

The customer is over the moon. “Oh, thank you so much John, you’re the best! Sorry I was a little over the top before.” “No no, you should be,” John reaffirms, and as he passes Alex on his way back into the warehouse, he just shrugs his shoulders in a gesture that says, “You know, customers.”

That day, Alex learned a valuable lesson: “There can only be one person in the angry-boat.”

Usually, we try to calm down angry people, Alex says, but that’s a mistake. It’s in the phrase: When we say, “Just calm down,” we downplay their emotions. Instead, we should validate them. Get angry on their behalf!

When your partner is venting about work and you begin venting with them, that gives the two of you something to agree on. Instead of getting angrier and angrier, they can nod their head and go, “Yeah, that’s what I mean!” That, ironically, has a calming effect.

What’s more, there’s only so much room for anger at any given time. The angry-boat is a one-person canoe, and as soon as you get in, the other person will have to get out. A few days ago, when my girlfriend ranted about an ongoing, frustrating situation with her employer, I ended up getting so angry at them, she started telling me to calm down. “It is what it is. Let’s just wait and see.”

This is a great lesson for managing customers and relationships alike, but for it to work, you’ll need a third party to be angry at. If your partner is angry at you, you can still get angry at yourself, but it’s hard to share this anger in a productive way. Still, it validates their feelings if you tell them: “Actually, you’re right. I would be angry at me too in this situation.”

The next time you spot someone in the angry boat, don’t duck and whisper soothing words at them from afar. Hop right in, and demonstrate that you understand how they feel. Join the scene midway, and act it out until the end. Chances are, by the time you’re on a roll, your customer, friend, or partner will already be back ashore, extending a hand for you to join them back in the land of calm — and then all you have to do is remember there’s no reason to be angry.