Water On The Fire

Difficult situations and demands can frequently arise with both customers and employees. But there are simple ways to diffuse tricky situations to everyone’s satisfaction, Paul Russell tells us from, Director at Luxury Academy London.

In our working lives we are faced with a multitude of difficult situations day in day out: a customer loudly demanding a refund, two employee’s arguing over a perceived slight, having to communicate to an employee that heir work isn’t of the required standard. Left unchecked and handled insensitively, these scenarios and many like them can quickly escalate into volatile, morale-damaging events and even brand-destructive behaviours if other customers are witness to it. Managers in possession of the skills to handle difficult situations can extinguish flames before they set the surrounds alight, and restore peace and order to the satisfaction of all. 

Understand The Situation

At the heart of much difficult behaviour is a frustration with not being heard. The customer that feels annoyed that their booking was not made as requested, the employee who always picks up the slack for their colleague, the employee that is struggling with the demands of the role. It is useful to remember that very few people want to be difficult for the sake of being difficult, but almost all with to feel understood. 

Build Rapport. 

Before you can get to the bottom of the difficult behaviour you must first establish rapport. You may already have an existing relationship and therefore rapport with the person exhibiting the difficult behaviour, or in the case of a customer, they may be relatively unknown – but in either case the steps to follow are the same. Show you are actively listening, maintain good eye contact, allow them to speak and listen carefully to the responses. Ensure your approach is calm, measured and open to show you are there to help. 

Communicate Effectively

Communication is both what we say and how we say it. As you approach a difficult situation look for cues in body language that can alert you as to the mood of the conversational partner. Look for rapid gesticulations which suggest that the communicator is struggling to get a point across, note a dejected or closed stance and be aware of your own body language. You can utilise stance in different ways, for example by getting to the same level as the person to build rapport, which can also calm a situation, or by asserting authority with a firm, upright stance, and perhaps even standing as others are sitting. In terms of what you say, avoid toxic or confrontational phrases that may further exacerbate an already difficult situation.

Unreasonable Behaviour 

In a small majority of cases, the difficult people will cross the line into unreasonable behaviour and resist all attempts to draw them back. To reduce the negative impact to others, you may choose to use deflection as a technique to halt the behaviour momentarily before leading the person exhibiting difficult behaviour to a less public arena. Remain professional, assured and confident. At this point you can attempt to start or repeat the understanding and building rapport stages and reiterate your solution. 

Remember that dealing with difficult situations on an ad-hoc or regular basis can be extremely draining but that specific training can assist you to approach such scenarios which confidence and provide a conflict tool-kit that will deliver in times of crises. 


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