Regaining rapport with someone who is upset with you


Life ToolsEven in the best relationships your counterpart will likely become upset with you from time to time. This tool will help you to successfully resolve such situations, regain rapport and rebuild the relationship. You might even find that successfully dealing with the situation will make the relationship even stronger than it was before.

Episode Outline:

Important Points:

  • This tool will be used when the issue at hand is not a clear cut, “right or wrong” situation that can be easily rectified.
  • When listening to someone explain why they are upset is the difference between letting them know that you have indeed heard them, as compared to pointing out some of the possible differences in opinions you have in regard to what they just said. When people are upset, usually the last thing they want to hear is that you think what they have to say is somehow overblown or ill-stated.
  • You can’t go back and redo what you did or didn’t do, and this is especially important if you have done something that might have been lacking in forethought. What you need to focus on is making things better from the present onwards.
  • When a person is feeling angry or hurt, and they communicate their anger to you, it is actually a sign that they feel close to you and want the relationship to be better, and that is something positive!
  • In most instances when someone is upset with you there is some kernel of truth in what they say. The veracity of a criticism is often just a matter of degree rather than a matter of right or wrong. Within reason, look to say and do whatever will help to resolve the situation rather than getting into a discussion about right or wrong.
  • If you are ever feeling stumped about how to reply in the moment, or if you are definitely feeling upset by what was said, you might want to reply in the moment by simply saying something like: “Ok, thanks for this feedback. Let me take it to heart and then I will get back to you shortly with a well thought out responsible reply.” And, then revisit the person using this tool once you are in a calm, positive mindset.


  1. Listen, nod, and acknowledge what your counterpart has to say. You nod “yes” while they are talking and when they pause you might say: “I can definitely understand why you are upset”.
  2. Apologize for having upset your counterpart and let them know that the relationship with them is important to you. This is very different than saying “I am sorry that you are upset.” because when you say this you are not taking responsibility for having upset them.
  3. Acknowledge that you could have done better. This acknowledgement can be part of your apology.
  4. Pause, take a deep breath, and see if your counterpart wants to say anything further. And if they are still upset, you need to let them vent until such time that they finally “run out of gas”.
  5. Ask the other person what they think will be the best way to make the situation more acceptable to them.
  6. State what you will do going forward, and make sure you keep to your commitment.
  7. Think about what you have learned from this situation and how you can use what you learned going forward.


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