Depending on your personality type there are several ways you can react:
Walk away and give them the silent treatment (or bang down the phone)
Shout back and keep shouting back till you shut them up
Say nothing and then go and belay other people with your sad story, taking up their time and energy
None of these reactions is appropriate. And certainly none of these reactions will help the situation.
The following 7 steps are intended to help with work situations, but when you read them, I hope you see that the steps could apply in most emotional situations:
- Remain calm and try to make the discussion private, or if that isn't possible, keep your voice quiet and calm so the situation doesn't escalate. Try to remember that the emotion is actually the other person's reaction to something. It may be something that has nothing to do with you, but the calmer you are the calmer they will become, especially on the phone
- Ask some questions and listen openly to the answers. Something like ‘how can I help you right now?' or ‘what do you need me to do for you right now?'
- Encourage the person to talk to you - and although you don't realize it, YOU are actually now in charge of the communication. The calmer you are, the softer your voice, the quieter you talk to the person, the more calming influence you have on them
- Discuss possible solutions as and when appropriate. Sometimes people in a situation like this just want and need to vent, so listen, listen, listen. You will get a sense of the right time to step in with possible solutions
- Sound back what they have asked you to do (if appropriate) ‘so you need me to .......and you will .......... (Remember not to take all the responsibility for the situation)
- Suggest meeting again to check that everything is actually now sorted - even something like ‘how about you and I have a coffee this afternoon to talk over how we both fared?' Or if it is a telephone complaint from a customer, suggest that you ring back in a couple of days to see that everything worked out. AND REMEMBER TO RING BACK
- Always leave a person on a positive note. Something like ‘Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I hadn't realized......' or ‘I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk this through with you.
Each emotional situation will be different, as with any skill, you will need to practice the steps above. Try them out at home - teenagers are good to practice on!!
Like anything, the more you use the skills the easier they will become.
None of us can avoid emotional situations but we can learn the skills to handle them more effectively. It decreases our stress levels and helps us live longer.
Ann Andrews CSP
MD The Corporate Toolbox