Learn to Deal with Angry UX Research Participants

I’ve heard about researchers being…

Yelled at.



It should never come to that.

Here’s how to deal with difficult participants.

Primary option: calm them down

Acknowledge their feelings

Show empathy towards the participant’s frustrations. Let them know you understand their concerns. Sometimes, this can be enough to de-escalate the situation.

Reframe the situation

Try to shift the participant’s attention from their bad experience to how it can be improved. This reframe could help redirect their focus and, in turn, lead to a more productive conversation.

Initiate a break

Take a short break to allow them to cool down. This break can also give you an opportunity to reset and figure out how to proceed.

Secondary option: cancel the session

If you can’t get them to calm down or if they’re getting angrier and more hostile, put an end to it.

You don’t have to listen to their insults.

Stay composed.

Thank them for their time and input.

Try to end the session on a positive note.

If you start feeling threatened or unsafe, politely but firmly end the session. Exit the situation and reach out to a colleague for support.

angry participant

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Arnas Aleksandravičius on LinkedIn