Take a clipboard to your meeting. Don’t use it in a way that makes you look like “an official”, however have it close to hand at all times and this can be used as a barrier between you and the other person if they should “lunge” at you.
Body buffer zone – keep at least an arm’s length away from the person.
The way you stand – when standing with a customer have one foot placed in front of the other with your rear foot pointing sideways. This provides you with much better balance than standing with both feet side by side should someone try to push you over.
Play for time – promise anything, when the going gets tough don’t be afraid to “lose face”. This is why bank staff are trained to handover the money when threatened.
Keep talking – in your normal voice tone to encourage a relaxed conversation. Long silences can feel threatening and allows the customer time to “think up” more issues. Asking questions means you stay in control.
Distracting activity – when the situation becomes highly aggressive and deadlocked any suggestion involving doing something maybe sufficient to break the deadlock, e.g. “why don’t we take a break, or “why don’t you discuss this with your partner?”
Show concern for their behaviour – sometimes situations can be managed by telling the person how you feel. “I wish you would stop pacing around like that, it’s really worrying me”.
Putting down a weapon – we make it clear from our voice tone that their possession of the weapon is unacceptable. (If you have a 2-way alert device ensure this has been activated). We repeat ourselves endlessly if we have to, use hand gestures to direct them to put the weapon down and of course keep your distance. Don’t ask them to hand the weapon to you – firstly they are unlikely to do this – they will feel they have lost face, secondly this could be dangerous. Ask them to place the weapon away from each of you.