Let’s face it – if you’re not somebody’s difficult person today, you will be tomorrow. We all take turns being difficult for other people, just as they can be difficult for us. The difficulty comes from differences in personality, communication styles, personal preferences, and our expectations of how things “should” be. Here are some practical and simple customer service techniques to de-escalate and win over the difficult people in your life.
The first technique is helping others to calm down by monitor and managing your tone of voice. Speaking in a calm tone of voice, smiling and keeping your face relaxed, and maintaining eye contact are always to keep your difficult person from become more escalated emotionally.
Secondly, demonstrate you are listening with your non-verbal behaviours. If someone is venting his/her anger at you, attempt to show empathy. The key to this is to WAIT until the person has finished venting. When you interrupt the venting, the person will feel as though you are not listening, even if you have an answer for his/her problem.
Once s/he is finished venting, focus ONLY on the stated problem. Clarify what the problem is and what solutions s/he would like, if any. You can show empathy by saying, “I can see why you’re upset – I would be upset too…” This is also a good time to set boundaries around how you would like to be spoken to in future. For example, “I see why you’re upset – I would be upset too. In fact, you’re handling this pretty well. (This will encourage the person to begin calming down). In future though, I would really appreciate if you would approach me like… (State your expectations)”.
Next, provide helpful information/direction towards the answer. Respond with wording such as, “Let’s work together to come up with a solution for your problem. Or, “I understand what you want and why – let’s get working on it right away.”
Finally, if you don’t have the answers, refer the person to someone who does. Better still, go together – this shows that you are caring and supportive, and are willing to work with the individual to see his or her problem solved.
By demonstrating your listening skills as well as your willingness to show support even when your difficult person is in the throes of being difficult, you will win that individual’s loyalty and respect. That is the kind of service that causes customers to walk away thinking, “Wow – that was a really great experience!”
Remember, it takes two to tango, and it takes at least two to fight. If you maintain a calm and supportive stance, your difficult person will have to come down to your level – there’s no place else to go!
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