HERE are some ways your body language and tone of voice may affect an upset person:

Facial expression

When people complain, do you ever roll your eyes? Do you scowl? Do you have an inappropriate smile?

Be aware of your facial expression when you communicate.

Ask friends, co-workers and your supervisor whether you have facial expressions that could be annoying, especially to upset customers.

To show the customer that you care, you need to have a calm, concerned, sincere and interested facial expression.

Some people smile when they are tense, but don't smile while a customer is expressing anger. If you do, the customer may feel that you are not taking him seriously.

Body posture

Do you slump on your desk or work area? Do you slouch?

Show you are attentive to your customer by standing or sitting up straight. When you loll or slouch, you may seem inattentive or uninterested.

Maintain a non-threatening, open body posture. Stand far enough away to give the customer room. Don't crowd him because this may increase his irritation.

Movement

Do you move slowly when you have to find something for the upset customer?

Upset customers want to see you respond to their needs speedily. This doesn't mean you have to sprint to help, but don't dawdle either.

Gestures

Do you stand or sit with your arms crossed?

Do you hold your head up with your hands?

The most common interpretation of the crossed-arms gesture is that the person is closed and unwilling to listen.

When communicating with an upset customer, uncross your arms to show you are listening and have an open mind.

Touching

Avoid touching an upset person, especially if he appears potentially violent. This could provoke him further.

Eating

Don't chew gum or eat when you are on the phone or in the public eye.

Even if your employer allows it, these acts can be annoying, and can turn an upset customer into an irate one.

Sighing

Sighing often suggests annoyance or impatience. Don't sigh in front of an upset customer.

Cursing

Even if the customer curses, there is never an excuse for you to do the same.

No matter how many insults he hurls at you, remember that you are a professional. Compose yourself as best you can, and avoid responding to abuse.

It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to stay calm and respond with patience when someone is cursing and insulting you.

Voice tone

Your attitude is projected through your voice as well as your body language.

Remember, helping customers is your job, and if you can't stand to help upset people, get transferred to another job.

Make sure your attitude is always: "I'm here to help as best I can."

Do you sound annoyed? Does your tone go up at the end of a statement?

People respond more to how you say something than what you say.

When you sound annoyed, impatient or condescending, the customer will become angrier.

But when you sound confident, he will believe you know what you are talking about, and it will be easier for you to calm him.

When your tone goes up at the end of a sentence, it sounds as if you are asking a question.

Listen to yourself on a tape recorder and hear if your tone goes up at the end.

If it does, practise having an even tone, or one that ends on a lower note. You will sound confident and competent.

Speak with a calm, firm, caring, soothing tone and, hopefully, upset customers will find it soothing and will cool down!