It's easy to understand your feelings about this, giantumbrella. It's difficult when we are negatively Singled Out in Public.
I learned My Lesson while working on a Chemical Dependency Treatment Unit. During the last group of the day, which had its goal as ending the day on a Positive Note, one Patient verbally tore me apart without so much as raising his voice. I was taken aback and said something like, "Thanks for sharing" and moved on to the next Patient. I could see and feel the tension in the Group.
I felt emotionally castrated and powerless. I discussed the situation with a couple of the Therapists, one being the Director of the Unit, and learned a couple of techniques from them.
First, show no emotion and remember these Individuals often do not know how to express themselves appropriately. We need to always remember who we are and who they are; who Requires the Treatment and who is Providing the Service.
Next, confront Inappropriate Behavior with Appropriate Behavior. In my Circumstance, I was advised to say something like: "Your comments are Inappropriate to this Group, as this is the Good Night Group. If you have a problem with me, we need to discuss this at a more appropriate time". I was further advised, that if I felt comfortable doing this, I could encourage dealing with the problem as a Group process, steering the process toward a Positive Outcome. At this point in my Growth and Development, I wasn't ready for anything like this. This Technique took quite a bit of Time and Practise to become Adequately Adapt at doing it.
Confronting Inappropriate Behavior with Appropriate Behavior sometimes calls for us to be Good Actors. For example, in Your Situation, I may have said something like, "You're upset and you have right to be! I Apologize Profusely for Testing your Patience! Please- how can I possibly make this up to you?"
Sometimes humor works, also. We have to be careful when we use humor, however. Many Patients have Thin Skins and will interpret Humor as Making Fun of Them. It's best not to use the Patient as the Focal Point of the Humor; It's better to use Ourselves as the Focal Point of Humor.
In a lot of situations, I have a routine that I call on for Specific Occasions. For example, if I've made a Blunder, or the Patient has a Criticism of me, I do my best Jimmy Stewart imitation and say, "Well well well, gosh-darn-it! A pox upon me for a Clumsy Lout!" This takes the focus not only off the Patient, it provides a Quick Distraction and allows me to React according to the Patient's Reaction. If the Patient recieves my Reaction well, I go into my MC Voice and say "Thank you-Thank you for Playing! And now, Bob- tell us us what This Patient has won!" He has won a FREE BLOOD PRESSURE MONITORING SESSION!" And so on.
If the Patient remains upset after the first Humor Attempt, I become less animated, speak in low tones and say something like, "Look, I'm sorry you're upset. I want to do what I can to please you. Can we talk about it?" I think this makes the Patient feel as though he/she are In Charge and pocess Some Power.
Power is a Big Motivator, as many Patients- the Majority of them in fact- feel as though they are The Victim. Allowing them to percieve power will often Quell their Feelings of Inferiority.
Oh, I could go on and on! But, basically, giantumbrella, find the Technique which works best FOR YOU in Defusing or De-escalating a situation.
Good Luck and the Best to you!