Posts Tagged ‘workshops’

How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Boxing glove punching hand

Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. Dealing with them is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution.

Difficult people come in every conceivable variety. Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. Some coworkers fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create. Difficult coworkers compete with you for power, privilege, and the spotlight; some go way too far in courting the boss’s positive opinion – to your detriment.

Some coworkers attempt to undermine you and you constantly feel as if you need to watch your back. Your boss plays favorites and the favored party lords it over you; people form cliques and leave you out. Difficult people and situations exist in every workplace.

They all have one thing in common. You must address them. No matter the type of difficult situation in which you find yourself, dealing with difficult people or situations is a must.

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Trust me. Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Unaddressed, necessary conflict simmers just below – and often erupts counter-productively above – the surface at work.

Initially, people go into shock when they are treated unprofessionally, so if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long term is not an option.

You become so angry and feel so much pain that your efforts to address the situation become irrational.

It’s far better to address the difficult person while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.

Constant complaining about the coworker or situation can quickly earn you the title of whiner or complainer. Managers wonder why you are unable to solve your own problems – even if the manager’s tolerance or encouragement of the situation is part of the problem.

Worse Case Scenario If You Fail to Deal With Difficult People

Most importantly, if you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may not only get blamed for being “unable to handle the situation like a mature professional,” you may be labeled as a “difficult” person, too. This label is hard to escape and can have devastating consequences for your career.

Finally, if the situation continues to deteriorate over time, the organization and your boss may tire of you. The boss may decide you are a “high maintenance” employee, easily replaced with a more professional or cooperative person, and you could lose your job.

Dealing With the Difficult Coworker

I’ve experienced workplaces in which all sorts of dysfunctional approaches to dealing with a difficult coworker have been tried. Putting an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox is not an option.

Placing a can of deodorant on a hygiene-challenged coworker’s desk is not a productive option either. Confronting the ​bully publicly can often lead to disaster. Putting dead bugs in his desk drawer can leave your boss no option other than to fire you. So, let’s look at more productive ways to address your difficult coworker.

Are you convinced that in almost all cases you need to productively deal with your difficult coworker? Good. Then, read on to find ten ways to approach dealing with difficult people.

These are ten productive ways to deal with your difficult coworker. Let’s start with the first five.

  • Start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions?Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with coworkers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) Always start with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions.
  • Explore what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or colleague. Brainstorm ways to address the situation. When you are the object of an attack, or your boss appears to support the dysfunctional actions of a coworker, it is often difficult to objectively assess your options. Anger, pain, humiliation, fear, and concern about making the situation worse are legitimate emotions.Pay attention to the unspoken agreement you create when you solicit another’s assistance. You are committing to act unless you agree actions will only hurt the situation. Otherwise, you risk becoming a whiner or complainer in the eyes of your colleague.
  • Approach the person with whom you are having the problem for a private discussion.Talk to the coworker about what you are experiencing in “I” messages. (Using “I” messages is a communication approach that focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person.) You can also explain to your coworker the impact of their actions on you.Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people. Worst case?

    They may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions going forward.

  • Follow-up after the initial discussion. Has the behavior changed? Gotten better? Or worse? Determine whether a follow-up discussion is needed. Determine whether a follow-up discussion will have any impact. Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself.Become a peacemaker. (Decide how badly you want to make peace with the other person and how much you want your current job. Determine whether you have experienced a pattern of support from your boss.) If you answer, “yes,” to these questions, hold another discussion. If not, escalate and move to the next idea.
  • You can confront your difficult coworker’s behavior publicly. Deal with the person with gentle humor or slight sarcasm. Or, make an exaggerated physical gesture – no, not that one – such as a salute or place your hand over your heart to indicate a serious wounding.You can also tell the difficult person that you’d like them to consider important history in their decision making or similar words expressed positively, depending on the subject. Direct confrontation does work well for some people in some situations. I don’t think it works to ask the person to stop doing what they’re doing, publicly, but you can employ more positive confrontational tactics.

    Their success for you will depend on your ability to pull them off. Each of us is not spur-of-the-moment funny, but if you are, you can use the humor well with difficult coworkers.

Want five more tips? Fleeing is definitely an option.

  • If you have done what you can do and employed the first five recommended approaches with little or no success, it’s time to involve others – your boss or a manager. Note that you are escalating the situation. Prepare to talk with your boss.Take notes and address the issues, not as interpersonal problems, but as issues affecting your productivity, the work and your progress on projects. Tell your boss exactly what the difficult person does.

    Make a plan to address the issues. Perhaps involve your coworker’s boss. Recognize that a good boss is likely to bring your difficult coworker and his supervisor into a three or four-way discussion at this point. Expect to participate in follow-up over time.

  • Rally the other employees who might have an issue with the difficult person, too – carefully. Sometimes, a group approach convinces the boss that the impact of the behavior is wider and deeper than she had originally determined. Be careful with this approach, however. Know what works with your boss. You want to solve your problem, not make it look as if you are rabble-rousing and ganging up on another employee.
  • If these approaches fail to work, try to limit the difficult person’s access to you. Protect the needs of your business, but avoid working with the person when possible. Leave voluntary committees, Choose projects he or she does not impact. Don’t hurt your own career or your business, but avoidance is an option.
  • Transfer to a new job within your organization. Depending on the size of your company, you may never have to work with this difficult coworker again. Fleeing is definitely an option.
  • If all else fails, you can quit your job. What, flee, you ask? But, I wasn’t the employee with the problem. I was not the difficult coworker. All I tried to do was my job. You’re right. But, what price, in terms of your happiness and success, are you willing to pay to stay? You need to decide whether the good in your current situation outweighs the bad or whether the bad outweighs the good.If the good wins, stop complaining and get back to work. Backtrack on these recommended steps and retry some of them when appropriate. If the bad wins, redirect your energy to leaving your current employment. You’ll be glad you did. Check out the second part of this article to find out how to conduct a stealth job search and much more about job searching.

Article by, Susan M. Heathfield
As appeared on thebalance.com

Conflict Management Styles: The Start of Effective Conflict Management

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Conflict is part of life. Conflict is any situation in which people have incompatible interests, goals, principles or feelings and experience.  In other words, conflict means that two people experience discomforting differences.

Despite our best efforts, we find ourselves in disagreements with other people in all aspects of our lives:  at work, in our relationships, in our volunteer activities.  How we respond to provocation can determine if conflict moves in a beneficial or a harmful direction.  The good news is that we can learn skills, strategies and processes to manage conflict.

The goal of  conflict management is to manage yourself and others so as to bring about the best possible resolution of a conflict situation in terms of the issue at hand, the relationship.  When handled effectively, conflict carries with it opportunity:

Better Relationships:
Conflict is a signal that changes might be necessary in the relationships or the situation so conflict management can build relationships. It also encourages listening and taking the perspective of the other person for greater rapport.

Better Outcomes:
Conflict stimulates problem-solving and open communication to arrive at better solutions.

Less Stress:
Conflict provides a means for expressing emotions which can ultimately clear the air and reduce tension.

Let us examine the first step in becoming an effective conflict manager:  knowing how to use the 5 conflict management styles and strategies.

Conflict Management Styles

The start of being an effective conflict manager is being aware of your style in conflict and the style of those that you deal with.  These styles were identified by two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970’s to illustrate the options that we have in dealing with conflict.
There are 5 different styles for managing conflict.  These are tendencies and we may use any one of these styles at different times.  However, people tend to have one or two preferred or default waysof dealing with conflict.

1.    Avoid
A person who avoids conflict does not deal the issue at hand when it arises.  This means that neither his own concerns nor those of the other person are addressed. Avoiding might mean diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or withdrawing from a threatening situation.

2.    Accommodate
Someone who accommodates the other person in a conflict prefers to satisfy the concerns of the other person, thereby neglecting his own concerns.  Accommodation carries with it an element of self-sacrifice.  This mode might involve selfless generosity or charity or yielding to another’s point of view.

3.    Compromise
The individual who prefers to compromise wants to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution. Compromising addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

4.    Collaborate
In collaboration, the individual prefers to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. This is the best way to achieve the win/win solution:  one where each party feels that he or she achieved his or her goals.  It involves exploring an issue to identify the underlying interests of the parties in order to arrive at an outcome that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, or looking for a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.

5.    Compete
An individual who competes pursues his or her own interests without regard to the other person’s goals and seeking to impose his power in order to win his position. Competing might mean standing up for one’s rights, defending a position believed to be right, or simply trying to win.

Conflict Management Strategies

These styles translate into 5 different strategies for managing conflict which are based on 4 factors:

•    issues: the extent to which the conflict involves important priorities, principles or values are involved in the conflict;
•    relationship: the importance of maintaining a close, mutually supportive relationship with the other party;
•    relative power: the power balance between you and the other party;
•    available time:  how much time you have to resolve the issue.

By knowing when to use each strategy, you can begin to make choices about which is the most appropriate to the situation.

Let us take a closer look at when to use each strategy:

1.    Avoid

Avoiding is an appropriate strategy where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict.  When used as a choice, it helps to cool things down and reduce stress. Avoiding is appropriate when
•    the conflict is small and relationships are at stake
•    you are upset and need to time to cool off
•    there are more important issues to deal with
•    you have no power and you see no chance of getting your concerns met
•    you are too emotionally involved and others around you can solve the conflict more successfully.

However, if either the issue or the relationship between the parties is important, avoidance is a poor strategy because important decisions may be made by default and postponing resolution of the issue may make matters worse.

2.    Accommodate

Accommodate is a good strategy when you find yourself in conflict over a fairly unimportant issue and you would like to resolve the conflict without straining your relationship with the other party.  Someone who accommodates builds good will and can be perceived as reasonable. Collaborating is also an option, but it might not be worth the time.  The focus is on the relationship, as opposed to the outcome.
Accommodate is the right strategy when
•     an issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person
•    you realize you are wrong
•    the time is not right to resolve the issue and you would prefer to simply build credit for the future
•    harmony in the relationship is extremely important.

The downside is that your ideas do not get sufficient attention and may be neglected, causing you to feel resentful.  Moreover, you may lose credibility and influence if accommodation becomes a pattern.

3.    Compromise

When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions.  However, compromise does not completely satisfy either party, and compromise does not foster innovation the way that taking the time to collaborate can.  Compromise helps to get to solutions and is good for overcoming impasses. It works when:
•    people of relatively equal power are equally committed to goals
•    you can save time by reaching intermediate resolution of parts of complex issues
•    the goals are moderately important.

However, compromise can backfire if the parties overlook important principles and long-term goals for the sake of the details.  Moreover, it is not the best way to reach an optimal solution on important issues.  The parties also risk engaging in excessive “horse-trading” while losing sight of the big picture.

4.    Collaborate

Conflict management experts advocate collaboration as the best way to resolve a conflict over important issues.  The premise is that teamwork and cooperation help all parties to achieve their goals while also maintaining the relationships. The process of working through differences will lead to creative solutions that will satisfy both parties’ concerns.  Collaboration is the way to achieve the best outcome on important issues as well as build good relationships since it takes into account all of the parties’ underlying interests.
Collaboration works best when:
•     the parties trust each other
•    it is important for all sides to buy into the outcome
•    the people involved are willing to change their thinking as more information is found and new options are suggested
•    the parties need to work through animosity and hard feelings.

The downside is that the process requires a lot of time and energy.  If time is precious, compete or compromise might be a better solution.

5.    Compete

Compete is a useful strategy when the outcome is extremely important and an immediate decision needs to be taken.  It is efficient and effective when you need to take a stand. In that case, one must sometimes use power to win.  Compete is appropriate when
•    you know you are right
•    time is short and a quick decision is needed
•    you need to stand up for your rights.

However, when used too often, compete can escalate the conflict, breed resentment among others and damage relationships.

How to Use Conflict Management Strategies
The first step in managing your conflicts is to be aware of your default style.  Where has it worked for you?  Where did it let you down?  What were the consequences?

Once you know about the other styles and strategies, you can begin to apply them in the appropriate situation.  The good news is that this is a skill that you can practice and eventually master.

In addition, once you know the different styles, you can identify them in the people with whom you are in conflict.  This can help you to understand their perspective and frame the appropriate response.

By knowing the styles and how to use them effectively, you can begin to take charge of those uncomfortable conflict situations.

With these principles in mind, you are now ready for action. For more information, here is how  to prepare for a conflict meeting and conduct a conflict negotiation.

Article by,

© Astrid Baumgardner 2012

 

Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success and blogs on career development and personal development for musicians creative professionals at www.astridbaumgardner.com/blog.

New Supervisor Worries

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Help Me Rhonda:

I’m new to my company, in my first supervisory position. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I want to be seen as a friendly boss but I feel like I’m being tested every day by my new staff members. For example, two of them will often be chatting to each other (in what is clearly a personal conversation), completely ignoring a ringing phone or the work they have to do. They won’t even stop when I walk by, and it feels like they are almost daring me to say something. How do I fix this situation without pulling rank or being too bossy?

Signed,
Cautious of Overstepping

Dear Cautious of Overstepping,

You’re absolutely right, they are testing you and right now you are not getting a passing grade.

Remember when we were in high school and a substitute teacher would come in? We’d put that poor teacher through the ringer just to see what we could get away with. We’d learn very quickly which substitutes would tolerate our bad behavior and which ones wouldn’t let us get away with anything. Your employees are doing exactly that to you.

At the moment, you seem more concerned with them liking you as a person than doing your job effectively. Work is not a popularity contest. They don’t have to like you. You do have to pay the rent and buy groceries though, so given a choice which would you choose, making friends or being effective as a supervisor? (Hint: If you choose making friends, then I would suggest that a supervisory position is not the right one for you).

The good news is that you can be an effective supervisor without alienating your employees. You can be friendly and still garner the respect your position deserves and ensure that the work gets done. If they decide to dislike you because you are expecting them to do their jobs, it sounds like they wouldn’t be the best kind of friends anyway.

The key is for you to be respectful, polite, specific and clear. That will demonstrate that you see what is happening but you aren’t making a big deal about it. The next time you walk by and the telephone is ringing, say: “Diane, could you please answer that ringing telephone?”

She will probably give you a funny look, but answer the phone anyway; or she’ll tell you why she isn’t answering the telephone. If she refuses, or if it happens over and over again then you’ll need to have a more detailed conversation with her.

Let’s assume the testing is continuing, the phone is continuing to ring, and you don’t feel that your instructions to answer the phone promptly are being followed when you aren’t around.

That’s when the DESC strategy will come in handy for you. DESC lets you plan what you are going to say:

D – Describe the situation objectively (rather than subjectively). Keep it black and white; state the facts with no interpretation of those facts yet. Your goal is to get them to look at you and wonder where you are going with this. Their likely response will be, “So?”.

“Diane, I couldn’t help but notice that the last four times I came out of my office you were engaging with Michelle in a conversation that didn’t appear to be work related.”

E – Explain the problem. This is where you give your interpretation and perhaps the consequences of the situation. After you make this statement, you should be prepared for a defense statement from them.

“It actually makes it look like you do more socializing than working, and when deadlines aren’t met I can’t help but think that if you chatted less and worked more we could get everything done on time.”

S – Solution. Offer a solution or ask for a solution. Always begin with the end in mind. Know what you want the solution to be before you ever have the confrontation.

“Could you and Michelle please restrict your socializing to coffee and lunch breaks?”

C – Commitment or Consequence. You want to get the other person to agree with you or make some type of comment that at least affirms that they have heard and understood you. You don’t want this to be a lecture, but more of a discussion.

“Does that sound reasonable to you?” (wait for the answer).

or

Consequence. If your position warrants it, and it’s necessary, you can give a consequence.

“Since this is the second time that I’ve mentioned it to you, I will tell you that if we need to have this conversation again, it will be an official conversation and a record of the conversation will go into your personnel file.”

Let them speak, defend or whatever will keep the conversation going. Don’t lecture. Do your best to get agreement (commitment) from them during the conversation. If necessary, follow up with an email.

You don’t have to be a tyrant but you are being paid to supervise, and although you are working with adults we all sometimes need to know what we can get away with and what we can’t. Set boundaries. Say what needs to be said, respectfully and professionally.

Your job is to be an excellent supervisor, not make friends. However, you can do both if you approach situations methodically and professionally.

Good luck.
Rhonda

Dealing with Difficult Customers

Monday, November 7th, 2016

It is easy to work with people you like, and it is even easier to work with people who like you. But that’s not always the case. Sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with a difficult customer.

Difficult customers come in a wide variety. There are those whose personality rubs you the wrong way. They may not be difficult for someone else, but they are for you. And then there are those who are difficult for everyone: Picky people, know-it-alls, egocentrics, fault-finders, constant complainers, etc. Every salesperson can list a number of the types.

But perhaps the most difficult for everyone is the angry customer. This is someone who feels that he or she has been wronged, and is upset and emotional about it. These customers complain, and they are angry about something you or your company did.

There are some sound business reasons to become adept in handling an angry customer. Research indicates that customers who complain are likely to continue doing business with your company if they feel that they were treated properly. It’s estimated that as many as 90% of customers who perceive themselves as having been wronged never complain, they just take their business elsewhere. So, angry, complaining customers care enough to talk to you, and have not yet decided to take their business to the competition. They are customers worth saving.

Not only are there benefits to your company, but you personally gain as well. Become adept at handling angry customers, and you’ll feel much more confident in your own abilities. If you can handle this, you can handle anything. While any one can work with the easy people, it takes a real professional to be successful with the difficult customers. Your confidence will grow, your poise will increase, and your self-esteem will intensify.

On the other hand, if you mishandle it, and you’ll watch the situation dissolve into lost business and upset people. You may find yourself upset for days.

So, how do you handle an angry, complaining customer? Let’s begin with a couple tools you can use in these situations.

1. RESPECT. It can be difficult to respect a person who may be yelling, swearing or behaving like a two-year-old. I’m not suggesting you respect the behavior, only that you respect the person. Keep in mind that 99 times out of 100 you are not the object of the customer’s anger. You are like a small tree in the path of a swirling tornado. But unlike the small tree, you have the power to withstand the wind.

What is the source of your power? Unlike the customer, you are not angry, you are in control, and your only problem at the moment is helping him with his problem. If you step out of this positioning, and start reacting to the customer in an emotional way, you’ll lose control, you’ll lose your power, and the situation will be likely to escalate into a lose-lose for everyone. So, begin with a mindset that says, “No matter what, I will respect the customer.”

2. EMPATHY. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and try to see the situation from his/her perspective. Don’t try and cut him off, don’t urge him to calm down. Instead, listen carefully. If someone is angry or upset, it is because that person feels injured in some way. Your job is to let the customer vent and to listen attentively in order to understand the source of that frustration. When you do that, you send a powerful unspoken message that you care about him and his situation.

Often, as the customer comes to realize that you really do care and that you are going to attempt to help him resolve the problem, the customer will calm down on his own, and begin to interact with you in a positive way.

Here’s how you can use these two tools in an easily-remembered process for dealing with angry customers.

CRACK THE EGG

Imagine that you have a hard-boiled egg. The rich yellow yolk at the center of the egg represents the solution to the customer’s problem, the hardened white which surrounds the yolk represents the details of the customer’s situation, and the hard shell represents his/her anger.

In order to get to the yolk, and resolve the situation, you must first crack the shell. In other words, you have got to penetrate the customer’s anger. Then you’ve got to cut through the congealed egg white. That means that you understand the details of the customer’s situation. Finally, you’re at the heart of the situation, where you can offer a solution to the customer’s problem.

So, handling an angry customer is like cutting through a hard-boiled egg. Here’s a four-step process to help you do so.

1. LISTEN.

Let’s say you stop to see one of your regular customers. He doesn’t even give you time to finish your greeting before he launches into a tirade.

At this point, about all you can do is LISTEN. And that’s what you do. You don’t try and cut him off, you don’t urge him to calm down. Not just yet. Instead, you listen carefully. And as you listen, you begin to piece together his story. He ordered a piece of equipment three weeks ago. You quoted him X price and delivery by last Friday for a project that’s starting this week. Not only is the equipment not there, but he received an invoice for it at a different price than was quoted.

What kind of shoddy operation is this?” he wants to know. Do you understand how important his project is? Do you know how much time and money is at stake? If he doesn’t get his equipment and something happens to this project, you’re going to pay for it. He knew, he just knew he should have ordered the equipment from your competitor. What are you going do about it?

Now you have the basic story. Hopefully, after this gush of frustration, there will be a pause while he comes up for air.

More often than not, once the customer has had an initial chance to vent his rage, it’s going to die down a little, and that’s your opportunity to take step in.

Even if he has started calming down on his own, there comes a moment – and I can almost guarantee you’ll sense it – to help calm him down. Try something along the lines of: “It sounds like something has gone wrong, and I can understand your frustration. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this problem. Let’s take a look at the next step.”

Try to calm yourself first, and then to acknowledge his feelings. Say, “I can tell you’re upset…” or, “It sounds like you’re angry…” then connect to the customer by apologizing, or empathizing. When you say something like “I’m sorry that happened. If I were you, I’d be frustrated, too.” It’s amazing how much of a calming effect that can have.

Remember, anger is a natural, self-defensive reaction to a perceived wrong. If there is a problem with your company’s product or service, some frustration and disappointment is justified.

This is so important, let me repeat it. First you listen carefully and completely to the customer. Then you empathize with what the customer is feeling, and let him or her know that you understand. This will almost always calm the customer down. You’ve cracked the shell of the egg. Now, you can proceed to deal with the problem.

2. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.

Sometimes while the angry customer is venting, you’ll be able to latch right on to the problem because it’s clear-cut. Something is broken. Or late. Or he thinks a promise has been broken.

But sometimes in the middle of all that rage, it’s tough to comprehend the bottom-line issue. This is a good place for some specific questions. Ask the customer to give you some details. “What day did he order it, when exactly was it promised. What is his situation at the moment?” These kind of questions force the customer to think about facts instead of his/her feelings about those facts. So, you interject a more rational kind of conversation. Think of this step of the process as cutting through the white of the egg to get to the yolk at the center.

It’s important, when you think you understand the details, to restate the problem. You can say, “Let me see if I have this right. You were promised delivery last Friday, because you need it for an important project this coming week. But you haven’t received our product yet. Is that correct?”

He will probably acknowledge that you’ve sized up the situation correctly. Or, he may say, “No, that’s not right” and then proceed to explain further. In either case the outcome is good, because you will eventually understand his situation correctly, and have him tell you that “Yes, that’s right.”

And at that point you can apologize. Some people believe that an apology is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. But you can appreciate and apologize for the customer’s inconvenience without pointing fingers. Just say, “Mr. Brady, I’m sorry this has happened.” Or “Mr. Brady. I understand this must be very frustrating. Let’s just see what we can do fix it, OK?”

3. AVOID BLAME.

You don’t want to blame the customer by saying something like “Are you sure you understood the price and delivery date correctly?” This will just ignite his anger all over again because you are questioning his credibility and truth-telling.

And you don’t want to blame your company or your suppliers Never say, “I’m not surprised your invoice was wrong. It’s been happening a lot.” Or, “Yes, our backorders are way behind.”

In general, you AVOID BLAME. Which is different than acknowledging responsibility. For example, if you know, for a fact, a mistake has been made, you can acknowledge it and apologize for it. “Mr. Brady, clearly there’s a problem here with our performance. I can’t change that, but let me see what I can do to help you out because I understand how important your project is.”

4. RESOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Now you’re at the heart of the egg. You won’t always be able to fix the problem perfectly. And you may need more time than a single phone call. But it’s critical to leave the irate customer with the understanding that your goal is to resolve the problem. You may need to say, “I’m going to need to make some phone calls.” If you do, give the customer an idea of when you’ll get back to him: “Later this afternoon.” Or “First thing in the morning.”

Then do it. Make the phone calls. Get the information. Find out what you can do for this customer and do it. Then follow up with the customer when you said you would. Even if you don’t have all the information you need, call when you said you would and at least let him know what you’ve done, what you’re working on and what your next step will be. Let the customer know that he and his business are important to you, that you understand his frustration, and that you’re working hard to get things fixed.

Use the tools of respect and empathy, and the “crack the egg” process, and you’ll move your professionalism up a notch.

Article By, Dave Kahle

Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to empowering yourself in such situations? Below are ten keys to handling unreasonable and difficult people, with references to my book (click on title): “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People”. Keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb, and not all of the tips may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

1.    Keep Your Cool

Benefits: Maintain self-control. Avoid escalation of problem.

How: The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure; the less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.

When you feel angry or upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of escalate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

2.    “Fly Like an Eagle”

Benefits: More peace of mind. Reduce risk of friction.

How: Some people in our lives are simply not worth tussling with. Your time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. As the saying goes: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!” Whether you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or an annoying relative, be diplomatic and apply the tips from this article when you need to interact with them. The rest of the time, keep a healthy distance. 

3.    Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive

Benefits: Minimize misinterpretation & misunderstanding. Concentrate energy on problem-solving.

How: When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think that my co-worker is ignoring my messages, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

Another way to reduce personalization is to try to put ourselves in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

“My partner is so emotionally distant. It must not be easy to come from a family where people don’t express affection…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

4.    Pick Your Battles

Benefits: Save time, energy and grief. Avoid unnecessary problems and complications.

How: Not all difficult individuals we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. There are two scenarios under which you might decide not to get involved. The first is when someone has temporary, situational power over you. For example, if you’re on the phone with an unfriendly customer service representative, as soon as you hang up and call another agent, this representative will no longer have power over you.

Another situation where you might want to think twice about confrontation is when, by putting up with the difficult behavior, you derive a certain benefit. An example of this would be an annoying co-worker, for although you dislike her, she’s really good at providing analysis for your team, so she’s worth the patience. It’s helpful to remember that most difficult people have positive qualities as well, especially if you know how to elicit them (see keys #5 and 6).

In both scenarios, you have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

5.    Separate the Person From the Issue

Benefits: Establish yourself as a strong problem solver with excellent people skills. Win more rapport, cooperation and respect.

How: In every communication situation, there are two elements present: The relationship you have with this person, and the issue you are discussing. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue, and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. For example:

“I want to talk about what’s on your mind, but I can’t do it when you’re yelling. Let’s either sit down and talk more quietly, or take a time out and come back this afternoon.”

“I appreciate you putting a lot of time into this project. At the same time, I see that three of the ten requirements are still incomplete. Let’s talk about how to finish the job on schedule.”

“I really want you to come with us. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be late like the last few times, we’ll have to leave without you.”

When we’re soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. When we’re firm on the issue, we show ourselves as strong problem solvers.

6.     Put the Spotlight on Them

Benefits: Proactive. Equalize power in communication. Apply appropriate pressure to reduce difficult behavior.

How: A common pattern with difficult people (especially the aggressive types) is that they like to place attention on you to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. The focus is consistently on “what’s wrong,” instead of “how to solve the problem.”

This type of communication is often intended to dominate and control, rather than to sincerely take care of issues. If you react by being on the defensive, you simply fall into the trap of being scrutinized, thereby giving the aggressor more power while she or he picks on you with impunity. A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the difficult person, and the easiest way to do so is to ask questions. For example:

Aggressor: “Your proposal is not even close to what I need from you.”

Response: “Have you given clear thought to the implications of what you want to do?”

Aggressor: “You’re so stupid.”

Response: “If you treat me with disrespect I’m not going to talk with you anymore. Is that what you want? Let me know and I will decide if I want to stay or go.”

Keep your questions constructive and probing. By putting the difficult person in the spotlight, you can help neutralize her or his undue influence over you.

7.    Use Appropriate Humor

Benefits: Disarm unreasonable and difficult behavior when correctly used. Show your detachment. Avoid being reactive. Problem rolls off your back.

How: Humor is a powerful communication tool. Years ago I knew a co-worker who was quite stuck up. One day a colleague of mine said “Hello, how are you?” to him. When the egotistical co-worker ignored her greeting completely, my colleague didn’t feel offended. Instead, she smiled good-naturedly and quipped: “That good, huh?” This broke the ice and the two of them started a friendly conversation. Brilliant.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth, disarm difficult behavior, and show that you have superior composure. In my book (click on title): “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People,” I explain the psychology of humor in conflict resolution, and offer a variety of ways one can use humor to reduce or eliminate difficult behavior.

8.    Change from Following to Leading

Benefit: Leverage direction and flow of communication.

How: In general, whenever two people are communicating, one is usually doing more leading, while the other is doing more following. In healthy communication, two people would take turns leading and following. However, some difficult people like to take the lead, set a negative tone, and harp on “what’s wrong” over and over.

You can interrupt this behavior simply by changing the topic. As mentioned earlier, utilize questions to redirect the conversation. You can also say “By the way…” and initiate a new subject. When you do so, you’re taking the lead and setting a more constructive tone.

9.    Confront Bullies (Safely)

Benefits: Reduce or eliminate harmful behavior. Increase confidence and peace of mind.

How: The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. This is true in schoolyards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

On an empathetic note, studies show that many bullies are victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses bullying behavior, but may help you consider the bully in a more equanimous light.

“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” — Tom Hiddleston

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

“I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.” — Shay Mitchell

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counseling, legal, law enforcement, or administrative professionals on the matter. It’s very important to stand up to bullies, and you don’t have to do it alone.

10.     Set Consequence

Benefits: Proactive not reactive. Shift balance of power. Win respect and cooperation when appropriately applied.

How: The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills we can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the challenging individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

In conclusion, to know how to handle unreasonable and difficult people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess. You are on your way to leadership success!

Article by,

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.

Preston Ni M.S.B.A.
Communication Success
For more information, write to commsuccess@nipreston.com (link sends e-mail), or visit www.nipreston.com

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

How to Extinguish a Disgruntled Leader

With winter in Ontario only a few short months away, I’m reminded of receiving my license. It was a blustery Saturday when the Young Drivers instructor was coaching me through skid maneuvering. We were in the parking lot of a local grocery store and trying (that’s right, on purpose) to get the car to skid out of control.  The maneuver wasn’t that difficult, just speed towards a snow bank and then turn sharply and hit the gas. BOOM – instant skid.

What was interesting about the training was how to get out of a skid. I can still remember when I made it into my first skid. I nervously grasped the wheel and shouted out to my instructor, “now what?!”

She replied, “Turn in the direction of the skid.”

 What??!

It would seem that by turning into the skid you gain control of the vehicle again. Counter-intuitive to what you might think.

This philosophy came to mind recently during the formulation of a strategy with a large board for a publicly traded company. We had one employee who had been around for years and who, despite everyone’s desire to walk on eggshells in his presence, was an obstacle.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but let me ask you, if the board members name someone during the swat analysis as being an “obstacle,” do you think it’s a recognized issue? Absolutely!

I’ve learned over the years that the most difficult obstacles in any organization are often the ones that are living and breathing. You know what I mean. There’s Bob in the corner office who is stuck in his ways, or Sally who has been with the organization since its inception and disagrees with everything you say.

Living, breathing obstacles are often the most difficult to overcome. If only we could tuck them away somewhere, like in the trunk of a car… (Kidding. Sort of.)

The interesting thing is that dealing with this type of obstacle is no different than dealing with a skid on icy roads.

You need to agree with them.

That’s right; agree with what they are suggesting, when they suggest it. Give them the floor, let them speak their mind, and agree with them.

Sound counter-intuitive? Well, it might be, but it’s the only way to diffuse them as an obstacle.

I’ve repeatedly found that when you let those who oppose ideas fully voice their opinion, they tend to lose their stamina. In fact, I often find that those who are most boisterous are often so as a result of having others dismiss their ideas for long periods of time. The longer they perceive they are ignored, the more of an “obstacle” they become.

If you allow them a stage to fully voice their opinion and explain it to others, there is an 80% chance they will feel listened to, validated, and be prepared in turn to fully listen to the ideas of other.

So the next time you have someone speaking out in rebellion towards the ideas of your board or leadership team, give them the floor and hear them out. You just might find that not only do they share some information that may have been missing from their earlier explanations, but they actually lose momentum and avoid skidding out of control.

Article by, Shawn Casemore


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