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Influencing Customers Exercise: Angry Customers

Brief Description/Purpose

To look at techniques that would encourage angry customers to change their behavior. A fun, excellent and engaging exercise.



Age Appropriate

Teens, Adults

Ideal Group Size

Any size. Uses pairs

Time For Exercise

20 minutes total, 4 minutes for the actual exercise.


Angry customers, persuasion, influence, calming frustrated customers

Detailed Instructions If Needed

  • Have participants pair up.
  • One of each pair is told to clench his or her fists.
  • The other person in the pairing is asked to get the fist clenching person to relax his or her fists, but cannot touch the other person.
  • Allow a few minutes, then have them reverse roles.


In the whole group ask what worked, and what didn't work. You may get a range of answers, some of which conflict, which is find since it shows that people are different, and that defusing angry customers needs to be tailored to each customer -- that there are no magic solutions.

Here are some of the things you can discuss:

  • asking versus telling
  • telling versus persuading
  • building rapport
  • body language
  • choice of words
  • the use of the powerful word "because" - explaining the reason why you want or need someone to do something
  • what worked and why it worked
  • what didn't work and why it didn't

Additional Information if Available

This is a surprisingly simple exercise that can provoke a lot of depth of thinking, so explore and be alert to links to the content you are trying to teach.

You'll also notice that the exact same exercise can be used in many different types of courses. For example, there's a good fit with communication, team-building, leadership...