5 Words to Avoid When Dealing With Unhappy Guests (and What to Use Instead)

Feb 6, 2018 | Guest Experience

No owner or manager wants to find themselves dealing with an unhappy guest, whether it’s an issue during their stay or a disagreement over a damage deposit.

In situations where your guest is angry or upset, choosing the right language is really important. There are certain words which can act as triggers and make an already tense situation even worse. The tricky thing is that these words are so ordinary, you’ll find yourself using them without even realizing – and that could be affecting your interaction with guests.

Here are the five words to avoid when dealing with unhappy guests and ideas of what to say instead.


The first buzzword on our list is “can’t”. Responding with “I can’t do that” can irritate guests because, in their eyes, there isn’t really a reason you physically can’t do something. Not only that, start a sentence with “You can’t” and you might sound like a schoolteacher (and risk patronizing your already unhappy guest).

Have to

The words “have to” are another trigger to avoid. They can convey a sense of obligation, that someone is being forced to do or accept something. If you’re trying to reach an agreement, they can result a disgruntled guest being even less willing to compromise.


The most natural response when your guest is unhappy with an aspect of their experience is to apologize. However, the word “sorry” is so overused, it can come across as insincere when used alone. Avoid this pitfall by using it in a whole sentence “I’m sorry you had to experience that” for example. You can also try using “I do apologize” or “Please accept my apologies” instead.


By choosing the word “try”–for example, you’ll try to do something or try to resolve a guest’s issue–you can give the impression that you’re only telling them what they want to hear (however far that may be from the truth!). A good alternative is “What I can do is…”.


As a word that contradicts whatever goes before it, “but” can be your worst enemy when it comes to unhappy guests. Whatever you say before this is often forgotten straight away, especially in a difficult situation. So say “I’d like to return your damage deposit, but it’s against our policy” and all your guest will hear is “… it’s against our policy”.

The words above might not always have the negative effects we’ve described. But when dealing with unhappy guests, it’s wise to avoid them and use our alternatives instead.

Looking for more tips and information? Check out our expert advice section.



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