Sometimes, you just want a simple way to get someone to cool down, without being too obvious about it or being rude. Here are 10 calm and reasonable things you can say when someone’s angry.

  1. “That sounds perfectly reasonable.”
    When someone says something like, “Any idiot should be able to understand that,” or something similar that’s indirectly an insult, reply to it as though it’s a true statement about somebody else.
  2. “Excuse me?”
    Pretend you didn’t hear or understand them, so you give them time to realize how snarky they’re being. (You may have to practice this to get the right level of innocence.)
  3. “That sounded { snide | inflammatory | like a threat }, is that what you meant?”
    Describe what they’re saying, give them a way to back down.
  4. “That’s interesting.”
    Poleax them with a nonanswer, as blandly and innocently as you can.
  5. Pretend you’re somewhere else.
    Pretend you’re in a polite, courteous, professional discussion, and respond to nastiness as though it’s politeness.
  6. “If we can’t agree on definitions, let’s just call them X and Y.”
    When people start arguing about definitions, like “What is warp drive, really?” substitute neutral variables.
  7. Spill your coffee or your water (accidentally, of course).
    Distract everyone with a small crisis. (I’ve never gotten up the guts to try this, so let me know how it goes.)
  8. Look at the bridge of their nose.
    They can’t tell you’re not looking them in the eyes. So you can have an effortless stare down.
  9. “Maybe some details would help.”
    When someone makes a ridiculous point, ask them to say more so they’ll realize how ridiculous they are and stop talking.
  10. “Wow, you usually do better than that. Are you feeling okay?”
    Deflate inflammatory remarks with cool evaluation.
Programmers: solve interpersonal problems fast and get back to programming
The algorithmic complexity of telling the truth and lying

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