Guidelines and Tips for Communicating
with Emotionally Upset or Demanding People

While assisting upset individuals, you may be exposed to the intense emotions of others and may not know what to do or say. You may be confronted with questions for which you have no answer The following guidelines for communicating with upset, agitated or demanding people were compiled by Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health - Project Rebound, with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Governorís  Office of Emergency Service - California.

 Sensitive and Helpful Responses:

1.      Provide clear information. Discuss sensitively the limits of your authority or ability to respond to a personís needs or requests. Define clearly what you can and cannot do. Most people have no idea of what the extent of your function might be in this situation.

2.      It is OK to tell the person that you feel touched or sorry about their pain or situation.

3.      If a person in a stressful situation is experiencing confusing emotions, fuzzy memory, difficulty concentrating, or trouble making decisions, explain that these are normal reaction to an abnormal situation, as long as they donít seriously interfere with the personís functioning

4.      If time allows, avoid interrupting. Be willing to say almost nothing. Let the other person finish thoughts, unless there is real confusion and the details are coming out jumbled.

5.      Help people focus on their short-term goals This will help them cope with the immediate reality more effectively Achievement of manageable goals will contribute to a sense of accomplishment and improved self-esteem.

6.      Be willing to accept people for who they are, what they say, how they express their concerns, and how they define their particular losses Try not to project your own feelings and judgments on them Each person experiences trauma and its consequences differently Be understanding that each person copes and heals in his/her own unique way and at his/her own pace.

7.      Be tolerant if people repeat their stories, for many people under stress and in fear do so.  It helps them to face their reality in deeper ways.

8.      Donít be afraid to say ďI donít know,Ē or ďLet me check.Ē Donít promise what you canít deliver. Always get back to people if you say you will.