5 Comebacks for the Customer Who Tries to Intimidate You

Some people use bait tactics to try to get what they want. They’ll say something just to get you to react. They’re trying to take your power so that they’re in control.

A lot of the time, when a customer uses profanity or yells, they’re baiting you. If they can throw you off, get you emotional, or frustrate you, then they have the upper hand. They want you upset. They want you to give in. Because, then, they think they’ll have a better chance of getting what they want. Even if they don’t get what they want, they’ve felt a sense of power from their rant.

When a situation escalates to the point of the customer yelling or cursing, you have two objectives.

You must assertively set boundaries for what you won’t tolerate, and you must immediately regain control. 

I sat down with a team of skillful Escalation Agents and one of the questions I asked them was, “What’s your best response to the customer who uses profanity, yells at you, or cuts you off?”

As they talked, I took notes. I walked away with 5 comebacks for the customer who tries to intimidate and bait using words or volume. 

The group gave me these specific phrases:

One. “I’m trying to help you, but if you continue to yell and swear, I am going to ask that you call back another time. It’s up to you.”


Two. “I’m sorry. It isn’t possible to help while listening to that language. If it stops, I can help.”


Three. “If a few minutes helps you calm down before we continue, that would be okay. You can certainly call us back.”

Four. One person shared, “You have to sound confident and solid. If you don’t, they smell weakness and run right over you.”

Five. At one point in the conversation, someone said – and every single person agreed with this – “Don’t be a doormat. Don’t let customers disrespect you. Address unacceptable attitudes head-on. Otherwise, you’ve lost control and the interaction will only go downhill.”

That’s perfect advice. You get the behavior you tolerate. So don’t let customers walk all over you. Assert yourself, respectfully, and work to regain control.

Need more help for De-escalating?

In my De-escalating Intense Interactions course for LinkedIn Learning, I’ll show you how to choose words that create calm with an upset customer. I’ll walk you through how to reframe conversations so customers don’t get worked up while venting. And, I’ll teach you the absolute best way to handle a customer who yells or uses profanity.

So join me in this LinkedIn Learning course and learn how to de-escalate intense situations with your customers.