Ooooooh, I was not happy...
A couple back, I severed a business relationship. After I'd explained why I was upset, the answer I received from the other person fell totally flat- - and beyond that, it only confirmed my call to part company with a top marketing firm.
But that experience got me thinking: did it really need to be that way?
I suspect the relationship could have been rescued, and that's the aim of today's article. Here's a simple approach for you to try next time you're face to face with an annoyed client, customer, or co-worker.
A five step-solution for placating the savage purchaser
1) Get Your Bearings
The first thing you want to do when challenged by an annoyed individual is to recognize that the world around you has changed. That's right- - you may not have moved a yard, but believe me, Dorothy, we are not in Kansas any longer. The train has left the station, and you have been hijacked by the mayor of Crazytown.
"People just don't think when they're angry", my Grandmama would say, and she was right. Step one in salvaging the relationship is to recognize the incontrovertible fact that the individual you are dealing with has temporary insanity, and like it or not, they have brought you along for the ride.
2) Stay On the Train
So here you are, barrelling down the tracks with your irritated buyer, client, or co-worker, and they're stewing. They are simmering. They're seething.
At about that point, the other individual is altogether self-interested. Your emotions & perspective are totally irrelevant to them. So not only are you stuck on a runaway train to Crazytown, but the conductor has lost radio contact, too- - they cannot hear, see, or feel anything from the world outside.
Your first desire is to defend your viewpoint. When you're being attacked, you'll want to leap off this steaming "loco"motive, put your foot down, and stand your ground.
Don't do it.
Stay with them. Ride it out. You can turn this train around- - but you've got to keep your wits about you.
3) Channel Bill Clinton
You're at a critical juncture. Most relationships with an indignant person derail at this point, for one straightforward reason- - in all of the commotion, it's not difficult to drop the one thing that can help to save you both: an emergency supply of empathy.
What do irritated folks desire, more than anything else? To feel heard.To feel that their views have worth.
As simple as that is, it's tough to remember when we're being attacked, as we don't see things from their perspective. Our natural inclination is to get defensive & rationalize ourviewpoint. Instead of crossing the bridge of empathy into their world, we retreat into our own.
But empathy is so powerful, and so effective, that it can stop a runaway train. The conscious choice to ride next to the other person's view is what folks like business authors Daniel Pink & Jeb Blount are touting as the new competitive advantage. Empathy is such an amazing force that it even helped impel Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton to the apex of power, the presidency of the United States.
And ultimately, here's some excellent news. The directions that come with your emergency supply of empathy are easy to follow: just tell the person who is angry that if you were in their shoes, you'd feel precisely the same way.
Say it with complete honesty. When you think about it, that is the most genuine, logical, self-apparent thing you can say: if you were in their shoes, you would feel precisely the same way, would you not? !
So say it, mean it and then shut up.
If somebody is cross, they simple need to let their outrage run its course. Step aside and let 'er roll, my friend.
They have got a specific quantity of coal in that locomotive- - you don't know how much- - and they need to burn through it. Let them say their piece. Do what you can verbally & non-verbally to show that their feelings have validity, and for heaven's sake, don't give them more fuel by defending yourself. Just let them burn off steam, and you will soon feel the train's pace becoming slower, and slower and slower.
5) Throw the Switch
Once things have settled down in the boiler room, you can gently throw the switch that may shift the train on to a favorable track.
Start by quietly telling the irritated person that you're truly sorry this happened to them. Tell them that you genuinely wish that this was something they didn't have to go through (once again, when you stop to think about it, isn't that the truth? Do you wish they hadn't had the experience that set the "loco"motive barrelling down the way, if only so you wouldn't have had to go along for the ride? Of course).
Then, when the time is right, just ask a direct question:
- What should we do now?
Or, if you would prefer not to leave it open-ended, simply say:
- I would like to make this right for you. Would you be open to [insert your proposed solution here]?
When you select this option, you've given someone that was feeling impotent, irritated, & incensed a crucial gift: a sense of respect and an opportunity to regain control.Most of the time, most folks will answer in a way that leaves you nicely surprised.
I'm convinced this approach would have helped me when I was upset a couple of weeks ago, had my co-worker used it advantageously. So the next time you're confronted by an angry individual, give it a try- - I believe you will find that it will also help you reach a more happy destination, too.
Marie Elwood is a Christian marketing consultant who runs Increased Results, an Atlanta marketing consulting company.