Whether we want to admit it or not, most people have mistreated service personnel at least occasionally. Research indicates that these behaviors have risen over the past several years; more than half of staff who interact with customers report an increase in abuse since the pandemic’s beginning.

Psychologist and behavior analyst Reena B. Patel says that people are typically quite inflexible. So when routines change, it might make people anxious and increase agitation. “You walk into a restaurant for breakfast thinking you’ll get seated in 15 minutes and instead you’re waiting for 45; now, your whole routine is shifting, and the stress is building up,” Patel explains. Even a tiny discomfort can be the breaking point as pressure mounts. The good news is that there are strategies to prevent explosions from happening altogether, or at least to de-escalate them rapidly. To do that, you might as well get up 10 minutes earlier to give yourself some breathing room in your schedule. You can also practice and develop flexibility by doing something as simple as changing your coffee order or walking to lunch instead of taking the train. When you do inevitably become angry, say “we” rather than “you.” “Ask the customer-service agent, ‘how can we solve this problem? ‘” suggests Patel. Finally, address them by their names. It gives you a reminder that they’re human, too.

Recognize that you might already be tense and make an effort to fix yourself before you lash out at someone. “It’s as simple as just being mindful,” says Patel, “and stopping and thinking before you respond is really important.”