Today I was in Staples at the checkout counter. (You know, no matter how “enlightened” you are, there are times when someone gets the best of you.)
The salesclerk asked the customer if he wanted a bag and the customer went off. “Doesn’t every customer get a bag?” he asked. Next he got into it with the debit machine. It was too slow for him. The clerk was cool, but I was beginning to get really annoyed. I would have loved to have told him to shove off. We can’t expect salespeople to know how to handle angry customers but he did a great job.
Have you ever been in a situation like this?
Before you know it, your “button” has been pushed, and suddenly you wish you could eat your words. It’s tempting to want to preserve your good name or make statements to defend yourself. It’s only natural but there are more strategic ways to handle these encounters.
Here are five ways to stay ahead of someone’s anger.
First, take a deep breath and keep your thoughts to yourself. You don’t have to answer immediately. I know it sounds a bit simplistic but why make it complicated? You will thank yourself immediately. I know this doesn’t sound easy, but it really is. Once you take a deep breath it gives you a moment to respond by asking the right questions not responding to the allegations. Sure you have to “think about on your feet” but it’s something we should all learn. Every time you respond to these comments, you have acknowledged that there’s probably some truth to them. Most likely, they’re true for the person slinging the mud, but why must they be to you?
Get one step ahead of the argument. You do this by asking for an example of the behavior they’re accusing you of. This forces them to think and gives you more time to relax and format your response. When this happens you are also in a better position to evaluate the rationality of the accusation.
Why not be receptive to suggestions as to how you can address their concerns. Why not ask, what have I to lose? It shows you’re willing to learn. Just the fact that you are willing to learn will dispel their anger. Don’t be afraid to listen to what is being said, not how it feels. When our feelings get attacked, we go on the defense.
Shove your indignant feelings aside and be inquisitive. Remember, the person that asks questions is in control. The minute you start answering questions, you’re on the wrong side of the argument. Try to understand the allegations on a higher level are if you were defending someone else.
If someone is really angry, take the deep breath and ask if you can start over. This allows the other person to also back in control. Remember they are angry because they are also feeling threatened. Many people aren’t logical and when they’re upset they only know how to express themselves on an emotional level. It’s not personal. #trainingsalespeople #controlling anger
Watch what you say, you may have to ‘eat those words.’
Sure this takes practice and thoughtfulness on your part. Once you learn how to stay in control of your emotions, life becomes a lot easier. Does your team need training on controlling their anger?
Lisbeth Calandrino has been coaching businesses be more productive and strategic. To learn more about Lisbeth, visit her web site at www.lisbethcalandrino.com, or reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.
It’s been a long time since anyone was angry with me. Last week, I was accused of something that made no sense. The person kept yelling at me while I kept trying to understand the problem. The more I tried to explain, the louder my friend became. I tried to ask a couple of questions, and she refused to answer. It was at that point I also realized she had been drinking.
This woman considers herself a professional and a friend. I was doing okay until my primitive “fight/flight” response kicked in. As a small child, it seemed like I was always defending myself against ‘the big kids.’ I wasn’t a ‘flight’ kid; I was a ‘fight’ kid. Since then I’ve tempered my ways except for a brief altercation with a guy trying to rob my bank deposit about 20 years ago. I know the police said I was crazy, but I kept the bag and gave the guy a broken nose.
Back to my story. “Enough is enough,” were my exact words. I said I was done listening and was hanging up. I was fuming and felt violated, powerless to fix the problem and threatened. I was trying to discuss the problem logically, but I realized she was enjoying her anger, and I was beginning to feel my own anger. I decided there was no need to allow her to enjoy her confrontation.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog on who’s pushing your buttons? Because of this, I received a call asking me if I might do a seminar on the topic. On Thursday, I’m doing a customer service seminar on “Is Someone or Something Pushing Your Buttons?” If you’re in the retail business, you’ve no doubt experienced the wrath of an angry customer.
As I recall my experience last week, it was obvious that I had somehow pushed her buttons, and now she was pushing mine.
I’ve had enough training to know that anger generally covers up scare, and the angry person is typically in the protection mode. It was obvious that the person yelling was frightened but was not going to admit to that. You see anger often makes people feel dominant because it raises endorphin levels. That’s why anger is such a powerful drug. The term endorphin rush is sometimes used in normal speech to refer to a feeling of wellness caused by exercise, danger or stress.
IF YOU CAN, RELAX!
Another term which is commonly used is runner’s high. It refers to the feeling being ‘full of energy and wellness’ after exercise. It is commonly said that the “high” is a result from the release of bigger amounts of endorphins in the body during the exercise. However, some scientists think this feeling is caused by the challenge rather than the endorphin release.
I decided to write her a letter, focusing on the issues and explaining that things were fine. I also told her I hoped that my explanation would alleviate her fears. Would she acknowledge she was fearful? At this point, it’s off my plate.
What do you do? If you can remember the angry person is feeling threatened, it will help you not get drawn into a battle. If you can get them to relate to that you have a chance. If they continue to yell, they’re obviously enjoying what they’ve created, and it may be hard to intervene.
ANGER IS A COMPLICATED EMOTION!
Anger is a powerful and complicated emotion and rarely if ever justified. The key is finding a way not to be drawn into the battle.
I’m interested to know how you handle angry people.
Lisbeth helps businesses build loyal customers through customer service and sales strategies. She also teaches a class called “Powerful Communication Skills.” For more information and to hire Lisbeth, she can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.