A couple are commuting to work in their car. There is an easiness between them as they drive along the highway. She, quite innocently, raises the unresolved issue about the high cost of their upcoming holiday.
He experiences this question as an attack. He tenses up and goes silent. That's his usual way of coping when emotions like this arise in him. In that moment he thinks of her and this question as 100% the cause of his uncomfortable feelings.
It's very easy to respond to aggression with aggression... but what if we reacted differently?
Alan was out shopping one weekend and couldn’t find a car park anywhere. Since he would only be a few minutes he decided to take a risk and park across the driveway of the business next door to the shop he was visiting.
When he returned to his car, Alan found one very angry business owner, shouting and swearing at him for blocking the driveway and preventing access to his business.
At first Alan was taken aback. His usual reaction would be to fire a rebuttal straight back at the guy. That would have led to a shouting match and he would have driven off in a rage, even though it was his fault the guy was upset in the first place.
But Alan didn’t do that. Instead he remembered the key message from the first session of the TUF workshop he did the week before:
"Acknowledge the Emotion"
Instead of yelling back at the business owner, Alan acknowledged and validated the reason for his aggression. "I guess it must be pretty frustrating having people park here all the time, I'm really sorry".
Surprisingly for Alan, it worked! He was amazed how quickly the guy calmed down. "It was almost instant" Alan exclaimed during the second workshop session a couple of days later.
“I didn’t really believe it when you told us this last week but I can see that it really does work”.
"Never in the history of calming down, has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down"
As with any new way of thinking, a little scepticism is normal, but the proof is in the results. The simple task of acknowledging the feelings of an aggressor, complainant or simply a difficult customer could be the difference between an escalating situation and a peaceful resolution.
Try it! and share your successes with us here at TUF.
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Emotional Intelligence (EQ) a concept first coined by Daniel Goleman, can be learnt and improved.
In a recent review of the TUF Online Training program the writer was pleased that I did not advocate zero tolerance: not letting customers swear or show any kind of aggression. Organisations with a zero tolerance policy towards customers tell people not to swear. If the customer persists in swearing they terminate the call or stop serving them and ask them to leave the premises.
The biggest challenge in dealing with difficult situations is to first of all manage your own emotional reactions to them. It is easy to see the other person as difficult and to blame them for your uncomfortable feelings. Acknowledging and accepting your own feelings to yourself is an important first step to making a positive response to someone who you find challenging.
Another missed moment at the luxury resort which said they were ‘all about YOU”
The housekeeping staff were very friendly and pleasant of course. When my wife mentioned to the cleaner that there were bits of white fluff on the carpet from something we had dropped she replied "Don't worry, I'll give it a good vacuum when you go".