Category: 上下求索

Emotion Coaching for Angry Customers

By , September 14, 2016 10:46 am


This is a set of slides that I prepared on the topic of “Emotion Coaching for Angry Customers” for customer facing roles. I am making them publicly available so that more people can benefit from this work. You are more than welcome to use them to provide training to employees in your own organisation, provided that you preserve the original author information. If you need the original PowerPoint files, please drop me a note and I would be more than glad to provide them.


When you work in a customer support role, it is inevitable that you will encounter angry customers from time to time. Is the scenario shown on the screen sound familiar to you? We ask the customer a simple question, and the customer shout at us over the phone. No matter what we say, they just won’t listen. It is so hard to talk to a customer that is angry, and we (almost always) try to avoid this type of customer as much as possible.

However, angry customers are like those lovely 1-stars. As we all know, no matter how hard you work or how good you are, 1-stars will come, and they come more than once.

If you worry about talking to angry customers, or you have been intimidated by angry customers, this training is for you.

In this training, we will talk about the theories behind anger, as well as techniques to deal with anger. First of all, we will need to understand how the brain works.


So, how the brain works?

Most of us have been exposed to the left-brain and right brain theory to a certain degree. It is commonly believed that our left brain is responsible for rigorous reasoning such as science and mathematics (which is what we do), and our right brain is responsible for creativity such as art and entertainment (which is what we don’t do, at least during business hours). When the people we talk to stop reasoning, we tend to say that “your left brain has nothing right, and your right brain has nothing left”.

But this does not explain why people get angry.

Another theory divides our brain into four major parts the Cerebrum Cortex (or the Cortex), the Cerebellum, the Limbic System (or the Limbic), and the Brain Stem. The cortex is the largest part of the human brain, which is associated with higher brain functions such as thought and action. The cerebellum is also called the little brain, which is associated with regulation and coordination of movement, posture, and balance. The limbic system is often referred to as the “emotion brain”, which is responsible for human emotions. The brain stem is responsible for basic vital life functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.

As we can see, different parts of our brain are responsible for different functions. The cortex for reasoning, the cerebellum for movements, the limbic for emotions, and the brain stem for life. It should be noted that the limbic system develops in an early stage during brain development, while the cortex develops much later. Therefore we also call the limbic system the old brain and the cortex the new brain.

You can think of the brain as a computer with a single CPU core. The cortex system and the limbic system are two separate processes demanding CPU resources. In certain circumstances, a particular process gets executed with higher priority, reducing the amount of computing resources that is available to the other process. When this happens, the other process stops responding to external inputs. Under certain conditions, the old brain takes over and the new brain is shut down. At this point a person is taken over by his/her emotions, and loses his/her ability to reason. If you try to reason with him/her during this period, the conversation will be very difficult because you are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

So, do not spend time and energy talking to the wrong part of the brain.

Then the question becomes, why would a person lose his/her ability to reason?


To answer this question, we need to understand how our body respond to danger. Assuming that you are hiking in the mountain, and suddenly a huge snake appear in front of you. Different people will respond to the snake differently, but all our responses can be categorized as flight (running away), fight (ha! ho!), freeze (petrified, can’t move at all), and faint (ah ou). These coping mechanisms were developed over the evolution process, and have become the fundamental survival function of all animals.

When being confronted with a danger, we act out of instinct instead of reasoning. The limbic system takes over to cop with the danger. The cortex shuts down to keep you survive. If you want to study what snake that is, how big it is, whether it is a native or a foreign species, you do that only when you are out of the danger, not when you are in the danger.

Now assuming that our customer is running a mission critical application on our platform. Suddenly their application stops working. In each and every minute, our customer is losing user, losing customers, facing critics, while the competitors are catching up. Our customer is in a real danger, and the coping mechanism is in action.

Now, the limbic system takes over, while the cortex shuts down. If you try to reason at this point, you are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

If we have to express this in technical terms, Mr. Customer’s brain is now experiencing a kernel panic, which is caused by a stack-overflow in the limbic system.


In such circumstance, it is very important to understand that the customer is not targeting you as a support engineer. No matter what the customer says, you need to keep calm, and don’t take it personal.

Let’s repeat three times – don’t take it personal, don’t take it personal, don’t take it personal. If there is anything I want you to take away from this training, it is “don’t take it personal”.

When the customer has lost the ability to reason, we need to be the customer’s cortex!

But how? And how long will the customer regain the ability to reason?


To answer this question, we need to understand the difference between primary emotions and secondary emotions.

Primary emotions are those that we feel first, as a first response to a trigger. For example, we feel fear when we are threatened, we feel sadness when we hear of a death. These are the instinctive responses that we have without going through the thinking process.

Secondary emotions, on the other hand, appear after primary emotions. They usually come from a complex chain of thinking process. More importantly, secondary emotion arises when the primary emotion is overwhelming, makes us uncomfortable or vulnerable. For example, when we are threatened by somebody, we feel fear. However, the feeling of fear makes me uncomfortable, makes me feel that I am a coward. Since I don’t won’t to be seen as a coward, I feel anger. Another example is that I ask my manager for a raise but my manager refuses it. I feel frustrated, but I am not able to change anything. The feeling of frustration makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Then I might become angry, or numb, or shut down.

Primary emotions are the result of instinct and do not consume much computing power. Secondary emotions are the result of very complex reasoning processes, which demand a lot of computing power. Therefore, when we experience secondary emotions, the emotion part of the brain takes control (gets higher priority), while the reasoning part of the brain shuts down (gets lower priority). Reasoning becomes difficult because we are talking to the wrong part of the brain.

When we experience primary emotions, we seek connections, and we pull others towards us. When we experience secondary emotions, we attack and criticize others, and we push others away.


Now we understand that anger is a secondary emotion. The underlying primary emotion for anger is usually fear or sadness, which makes one feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.

Again, let’s assume that our customer is running a mission critical application on our platform. Suddenly their application stops working. In each and every minute, our customer is losing user, losing customers, facing critics, while the competitors are catching up. Our customer is in a real danger, and the coping mechanism begins to take action.

Now, our customer feels frustrated that his mission critical application is down. He feels fear about the consequence – his boss might shout at him, he might receive a lot of complains from his team members, in the worst case he might lose his job. The frustration and fear he is experiencing make him feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. When such feeling becomes overwhelming, he feels a real danger approaching, and his brain automatically switches to “Flight and Fight” mode. The emotion part of the brain takes control, and the reasoning part of the brain shuts down. As a result, he becomes angry and begins to blame and criticize.

As we just said, anger is a secondary emotion. It pushes others away, and makes the communication difficult. In this case, it is time for us to provide some emotion coaching to our customer.


The purpose of emotion coaching is to reactivate the customer’s cortex (the reasoning part of the brain) so that he/she can start reasoning again. We do this by leading the customer from his secondary emotions back to his primary emotions. As we discussed just now, when people experiences primary emotion, he seeks connections and is open for help.

We may think that this is a very complicate process. In fact, there are only several simple steps that we need to follow.

And, it does not take long for an adult to calm down if the appropriate steps are taken.


Listen to the customer patiently, and wait for the customer to stop talking. During this process, you can use “yeah… ah… right…” as simple acknowledgements. However, do not make any comments. You might think that the customer wants the problem to be solved as soon as possible. This is the wrong perception. For the customer, at this point his/her primary need is TO BE HEARD.

After the customer slows down / finishes talking, the first step is to name the customer’s feelings, using the names of primary emotions. For example, we can say “I can see that you are very frustrated / sad / disappointed when XYZ happens”. When we name the primary emotions, we guide the customer back to his primary emotions. Do not point out that the customer is angry, or tell the customer to calm down. This would make the customer feel shameful, which is uncomfortable for the customer. When the customer does not want to feel shameful, it is very likely that he would choose to convert this uncomfortable feeling into secondary emotions, which is going to be anger.

The second step is to validate the customer’s feelings. When a customer experiences a thread, or a lost, he has all the rights to feel sad, or disappointed, or frustrated. There is nothing wrong with such feelings, and we need to allow our customer to fully experience and express such feelings. By allowing our customer to experience and express such feelings, the customer feels that he is being listened to. Such practice builds trust, and brings intimacy between us and the customer. It opens the door for future communications.

Do not worry about the time you spend on naming and validating the customer’s feelings. It does not take long for an adult to calm down if the appropriate steps are taken. Therefore, continue to stay with the customer’s feelings when needed. You may want to repeat the previous steps when necessary. It is very unlikely that a customer would refuse your empathy.

At some point, the customer will sooth himself and calm down. The reasoning part of his brain comes back and take control. At this point, it is time to teach our customer some general relativity, quantum mechanics and wavelet theory to resolve whatever issue he has.


When communicating with the customer, use the “I” statement as much as possible. When you use an “I” statement, you take responsibility, and avoid criticizing the customer.

In the case that a customer made a mistake, avoid using “you” or “your” in your statement. For example, “user ABC did something” is a better wording are compared to “Your user ABC did something”.

When we did something that caused the issue, you can use “your resource” to take responsibility and acknowledge the customer’s lost. For example, “the underlying hardware running your virtual machine instance failed”.


Two-Child Policy?

By , October 30, 2015 7:06 am

Yesterday, China announced that the country would ease family planning restrictions to allow all couples to have two children after decades of a strict one-child policy. For many people in China, this was seen as a significant improvement in domestic affairs because “the government was giving the people more rights”.

My mother gave birth to three children in 1974, 1976 and 1978 respectively. In 1979, the one-child policy was introduced and enforced. Because my mother violated the one-child policy before the policy was introduced she was severely punished. I can not remember exactly in which year but it was probably in 1984 that my mother was forced to have a sterilization operation and became permanently “immune” to pregnancy. Around the same period, this happened to tens of millions of other women in China. As a child, I witnessed many people who desperately wanted a second child, who attempted each and every way to escape the obsession and prosecution from the government during pregnancy, who lost their lives when being forced to have an abortion when the fetus was already too big for an abortion, and who lost their jobs and financially punished when they had a second child.

My wife and I had our first daughter in 2004. In late 2009 we relocated from Beijing to Hainan, and both of us accepted the offer to become teachers in a local vocational colleague. It was at that time that my wife became pregnant with our second daughter. We made this known to the colleague, and both of our offers were cancelled immediately. We stayed in a small quiet village during this period, and gave birth to our second daughter in a hospital 80 kilometers away from the village in 2010. Out of the fear of the sterilization operation on my wife, the second daughter did not received immunization until she was 2 years old (when we found a community clinic that was willing to help privately), and she did not have an identity until she was 3 years old (when we paid a fine to the local government to obtain a citizen identity card for her, which allowed her to apply for a passport). In 2014, my family relocated from China to Australia, where both of our daughters can receive education and medical services without any fines or other troubles.

We have many friends with similar situations. It is hard to believe that every year tens of thousands of people travel from mainland China to Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, Australia, or some other countries, just to give birth to a second child. Even so, people are still under the risk of losing their jobs if they work for state-owned organizations such as schools, hospitals, government agencies, etc. I have two friends who were classmates in university, and they work for the same university after graduation. Both of them got their second child several years ago, but none of them were courageous enough to share this good news with their friends. When being seen with both children, they have to tell people that the other child belongs to another family member, otherwise their jobs might be at risk. In China, having a second child is a top privacy and the best-kept secret unless you are very rich or you are a person of unusual authority.

I can’t help but keep on thinking why we in China have to live in fear and despair. Are we not human beings that are born with the right and ability to fall in love, have sex, become pregnant, and give birth? How can a government take away such basic human rights from the people, prosecute those who practice their rights, and argue that the one-child policy is for the well being of the whole society? During the past 25 years, approximately 200 to 300 million people were “reduced” from this planet. Today, the one-child policy is changed to the new two-child policy, and many people applaud and see this as “the government is giving more rights to the people”. However, this new two-child policy is just as evil as the old one-child policy in that it emphasizes that the government – not the couple – has the right to decide whether to get pregnant and give birth. Considering the fact that the two-child policy was made because the country needs more “human resources”, will couples with no child or only one child be prosecuted in the same way as couples with two children in the one-child era?

If you don’t like this government, it won’t last forever.

By , September 19, 2014 6:01 pm



“If you don’t like me, I wont’ be here forever. If you don’t like this government, it won’t last forever.”

This is the best sentence I’ve heard regarding country, government, politicians, and people. It is so simple, and so true.


By , July 26, 2012 1:53 pm


郭学长在文章的开头,引用了2011年局部修订版的《室外排水设计规范》(GB50014-2006)中《3.2 雨水量》一节关于雨水量的计算公式,指出“雨水流量是汇水面积、区域的汇流系数以及设计暴雨强度这三者的乘积,所谓的提高设计标准,意思就是设计暴雨强度公式中的P 值,也就是设计重现期是1 年、3 年还是5a的区别”。郭学长进一步认为,提高设计重现期(例如将1 变成3)不能够解决低洼积水问题,因为“在同样的暴雨强度下,上游排水、汇水极为迅速高效,在很短的时间内,他就能把大量的雨水排到了下水道,立交桥下低洼点出,你铺设再大的管径都没有用,因在下游,都给迅速增多的,其他地方迅速派来的水给占了”。



严格来说,雨水管道的汇水面积应该按分水线来计算。以北京市的地形地貌来估算,市政道路两侧500米范围内的雨水需进入市政雨水管道。按照这样的计算方法,当排水管道的长度达到1 公里时,就需要直径为2 米的排水管道。由于建设成本较高,现实中基本上都是按道路周围100~200米范围进行计算。

更为重要的是,汇水面积不是一个点的概念,而是一个面的概念。如果某地段地处下游,其汇水面积应该是上游所有可能汇水面积之和。根据相关报道,7 月21日夜间广渠门桥积水深度达到4 米,如果以平原地区常用的千分之三到千分之五的排水坡度来计算,广渠门桥地区道路两侧1000米范围内的都需要计算到汇水面积中。郭学长的文章正确地指出:“为什么下游会灌得这么快呢?很简单,上游的排水能力实在是太强了,汇水多,历时短,流量大……但是,这么强大的上游雨水排除能力,恰恰是低洼地区积水的重要原因。”






By , October 17, 2010 5:06 pm

在文昌,第一波洪水缓缓退去,疲惫的人们重新打起精神,投入到灾后重建工作。官方媒体开始口径一致地报道各级政府“及时启动防御强降雨预案,超前部署、全面动员… 全面夺取了防汛救灾第一阶段胜利”。然而第二波洪水在不到一个星期的时间里卷土重来。已经很少有人提起,2008年10月,几乎是在同样的日期范围里,文城镇才刚刚被洪水全面蹂躏过。在草根媒体上,还能够依稀找到这一段记忆的残片,但是也很快被淹没在眼下这一场灾难的所引起的震撼、悲痛与愤怒里。




文昌地区共有中小型水库89座(不包括库容较小的山塘水库),大都始建于上个世纪70年代前后。湖山水库为全境最大的水库,蓄水容量为4300万立方米。东路水库排名第二,蓄水容量为3200万立方米。龙虎山水库排名第三,蓄水容量1500万立方米。由于年久失修的原因,文昌境内的大部分水库均可按水库安全等级划分为二类坝,属于需要加固改造的水利工程。2010年文昌境内正在排险加固的中型水库5 座(宝芳、东路、石壁、龙虎山、爱梅),小型水库11座(石马、大坡、排寒、天鹅岭、名园、深田、中南、赤纸、李山、茂密、辽坦),其中5 座水库(龙虎山、石马、大坡、名园、天鹅岭)的排险加固工程已经基本完工。


由于水库长期在低水位的状况下运行,直接导致了水库管理人员安全观念淡薄,抗洪意识缺失。10月3 日,海南的强降雨过程进入第三天,陵水县吊罗山发生山体滑坡,海南省气象局通过移动通讯运营商向全省移动电话用户发布了灾害天气预报。包括海口等兄弟市县都开始投入抗洪救灾工作,文昌河的水位明显上涨,但是文城镇居民并没有看到文昌市三防指挥部做出任何反应。10月4 日,海南省气象局将暴雨Ⅲ级应急响应提升为Ⅱ级应急响应。10月5 日,海南省气象局再次向全省移动电话用户发布危险天气预报。当日清晨,罗保铭省长作出指示:“一是要求各市县、部门要全面进入防汛应急工作状态,全面落实水库安全度汛措施,科学调度洪水,确保水库工程安全。同时,要及时做好人员安全转移,确保群众生命财产安全;二是各地要抓住这次降雨机会,在确保水库安全的前提下,降雨量较少的市县要根据实际情况做好水库蓄水。”10月5 日夜间,文城镇全面沦陷。10月8 日凌晨,会文镇赤纸水库决口。

在这种情况下,文昌市政府的官方媒体文昌新闻网于10月10日发布消息称:“10月5日,在海南各地险情还不是太突出时,文昌市就提前启动应急预案。”这似乎表明文昌市政府忽略了海南省气象局于10月3 日发布的灾害天气预报和10月5 日发布的危险天气预报,也忽视了罗保铭省长于10月5 日做出的要求各市县全面进入防汛应急工作状态的指示。

关于赤纸水库的决口事件,海南省三防办于10月8 日11时召开媒体说明会。三防办强调,赤纸水库是一座正在排险加固中的病险水库,原来水库中并没有蓄水,发生决口主要原因是由于此次强降雨造成。问题在于,如果赤纸水库的排险加固工程尚未完成,则应该在汛期采取限制蓄水措施,也就是通过泄洪手段将水库水位控制在警戒水位以下。根据官方媒体所公布的消息,10月8 日凌晨3 点赤纸水库水位超过警戒线1.3米。结合东路水库在此次洪水中的水位增长数据,可以估算出赤纸水库水位至少在10月7 日夜间10点左右已经超过警戒线了。因此,赤纸水库在决口事件发生之前是否采取了恰当的泄洪措施,是探究赤纸水库决口原因的一个关键性问题。尽管赤纸水库下游15公里处就是正处于水深火热中的文城镇,但是赤纸水库属于石壁河流域,其泄洪流量注入石壁河从新村港入海,基本上不会加重文城镇的灾情。从文昌市政府网站所公布的信息来看,赤纸水库在决口前保守泄洪甚至是没有泄洪的可能性是非常大的。一座病险水库,为何在连续多天强降雨并且水位不断上涨的情况下没有将水库水位控制在警戒水位以下,是一个值得探究的问题。此外,有消息指出10月7 日夜间赤纸水库水位突然快速增高,怀疑为上游水库紧急泄洪。赤纸水库上游5 公里处,是库容为赤纸水库2.5倍的石壁水库。赤纸水库决口事件发生之前,石壁水库是否曾经紧急泄洪,是否通知下游的赤纸水库启动应急预案,也是很关键的问题。






文城镇位于文昌河的下游,重灾区太平桥位置(北纬19度37分00秒,东经110度45分00秒,海拔高度6 米)离出海口八门湾(北纬19度36分11秒,东经110度48分18秒,海拔高度1 米)的曲线距离大约为10公里,高程差异大约为5 米。尽管出海口处实际水位受潮汐的影响时高时低,但是海平面的水位是相对稳定的。假设从太平桥位置到八门湾的高程变化是均匀的,则文城镇下游的比降为万分之五,并不是一种非常不利的排洪条件。问题在于,文昌河已经有多年没有进行清淤工作,下游部分河段的河床高度高于文城镇河床高度。文昌河流经松马村后分为南北两个支流,流速明显变慢,排沙能力显著降低,淤积现象严重。容易引起排洪不畅的现象。


在自然条件下,河流的横断面由主槽、嫩滩和滩地组成。从排洪的角度来看,主槽是河道排洪的主体。嫩滩是主槽在摆动过程中滩地坍塌形成的, 没有明显的滩地横比降,植被稀少, 阻力较小, 亦有较大的过流能力。滩地受植被、村庄、道路等阻水建筑物的影响, 过流能力较嫩滩和主槽要小得多。文昌河下游主槽宽度变化很大,是排洪中的不利因素。文兴路沿岸的河槽宽度明显变窄,仅为上游河槽宽度的2/3。沿江花园正东方向更有一栋直接构筑在河道正中的非法建筑(北纬19度37分25秒,东经110度45分44秒),占据了整个河槽宽度的1/2,对文昌河下游排洪形成了重大障碍。此外,沿江花园下游整个河段两岸鱼塘林立,原本用于排洪的滩地被鱼塘彻底占领,大大降低了河流的排洪能力。同时,鱼塘堤岸比周边村庄的地势要高,造成周边村庄的积水无法迅速排入文昌河,是周边村庄形成内涝的重要原因。

滩槽不同部位阻力特性的变化,直接影响河道的排洪能力。反映滩槽阻力的曼宁糙率系统n 值是洪水演进预报和河道冲淤演变预测的主要参数。糙率n 值的变化主要受河床冲淤、床沙粗细化的影响,但变化规律性不明显。可以肯定的是,由于拦滩公路、渠堤、村台房台等阻水建筑物增多和水边植被增加都会提高糙率n 值,对河流的排洪能力形成负面的影响。由于缺乏相关的技术数据,在这里不便展开深入讨论。



这段时间,“天灾”可能是我们政府官员使用最频繁的词汇之一。沿江两岸倾家荡产的灾民们尚未停止嚎哭,会文小学的灾民们刚刚过上“有粥喝就不错了”的生 活,我们的政府官员已经在争相庆贺“防汛救灾第一阶段胜利”。会文镇的许多村民都清晰地记得,刚刚收到通知转移的短信,奔涌而来的洪水已经没到他们的腰 部。当他们再次回到这熟悉而又陌生的家园,房屋宅舍已经夷为平地,田地果园一片狼藉。我没有亲见,但是听说政府给他们每人发放了一些大米和一条薄毯作为救 灾物资,房屋被冲毁的村民还能够领到23000元重建资金。按照目前海南地区的农村建筑成本估算,23000元只能盖30平米左右的房子。一家老小,又如何安置得下?



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