It can be very difficult having a client standing in front of you yelling. Easy to hang up on them if on the phone, but also then we have to deal with the consequences of the aftermath.
As a new graduate, I always had trouble staying calm around clients. I was a ticking time bomb, waiting for the next client to come after me. I have been noted to even say, “As I told you yesterday” OK well… Maybe that wasn’t as a new grad, maybe that was last year, but while I try my best to follow my own rules we sometimes will slip up.
So how do I maintain my cool the majority of the time? Whether I can prepare for the yelling or I am blindsided by being cornered against the wall.
There are a few rules I follow.
Keep your cool
I can tell you when I was cornered against the wall with a screaming client and their finger being shoved in my face, it was hard to remain calm. I could feel my blood boiling and the anxiety building up bringing me to the tipping point.
Then I took a step back and knew I had two options; 1. She will continue to scream and follow me out the door or continue to scream at the front staff and eventually become violent 2. I can give in and just deal with it and hopefully be able to fire her later.
I chose 2… Why? Safety…
I could have easily flipped out and yelled back, but instead I didn’t show my fire. I realize if I responded to her with my emotions the situation would have blown out of control.
A lot of the frustration and the anger from our clients are usually from some other reason and not due to us. So if we feed them our emotion we will make the situation worse.
The best thing is to remain calm…
This is tough. To show compassion is easy, trying to help and figuring out ways to help, but to show empathy… Now that one can be tough for people.
Saying you’re sorry is not acknowledging your wrong, it is putting yourself in their shoes and making them know that you are taking their perspective and their feelings.
For example, “I am so sorry that you had traffic coming here, that road is awful and I know how frustrating that can be.”
This is taking something and apologizing while relating to them and realizing their feelings. By doing this I have actually calmed clients down.
Let them express everything
Let them get their anger out. How good does it feel to call your friends and vent about everything? Amazing right?
Well, now think of a client who we know most likely misunderstood something or is just trying to get something out of us, of course, needs to get their anger out.
Let them yell and get it all out and then wait for it.
Eventually, like a tantruming toddler, they will calm down.
Actually listen to them
I know as we listen to them yell, we know most of the time it isn’t accurate so we space off thinking we need to remain calm. What are we missing? Listen to them!
Do they have a valid reason to be angry? Did the doctor actually miss that value? Did the staff really forget to send home the medication? Is the pet sick and we can’t get them in?
We need to actively listen to our clients and try to understand why they are upset. Then we must respond in ways to show that we were listening.
How can you do this? Stop with trying to figure out what to say? Ask a question and repeat what they are saying to show you understand.
Also a big one…..
By interrupting you obviously are not listening, you are not giving them the chance to voice their concerns and they will leave not satisfied because they didn’t get to say everything they wanted.
Everyone can improve and if you find a way for that even though a client is actively angry, that’s a good thing.
Agree with them on something
Have you ever fought with someone and not agree on anything. You felt like banging your head against the wall… right? Well, think about that with clients. If we can’t agree on something then it will be a losing battle all around.
“Seek first to understand… before you seek to be understood.” – Stephen R. Covey