Keep Your Cool

Some time ago I observed a gate agent who is trying her best to maintain her professionalism by remaining courteous were very obnoxious passenger. It reminded me of the story about a similar situation where a passenger remarked how impressed he was that the agent could keep smiling while taking such abuse. The agent replied by saying, ‘I'm able to smile because I know something that passenger doesn't know.” When asked what that was, she said” That man is going to Chicago but his bags are going to Miami.”

We are all faced, from time to time, with having to cope with difficult people and difficult behavior. Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:

No matter how you feel - be courteous. Regardless how rude the other person is, if you treat them well - if you are direct but polite - most people will respond accordingly. Telling them to “calm down” often makes them more angry. Instead, try this, “Thank you for explaining to me how you feel. Under the circumstances, I probably would feel much the same as you do. If you’ll show me the courtesy of your composure, I'll try my best to help you, or at least clarify why I can't”

Allow the person exhibiting difficult behavior to fully express his or her feelings. Don't interrupt and don't be critical of the person or what he is saying. Listen with empathy - they might have a valid reason for behaving the way they are, even though it is making your life difficult. Look at the person while they are speaking. Then acknowledge your awareness of the situation, describe what you see and hear, reveal what you think and feel. Try not to judge (“ You shouldn't act like that) or generalize (“You always do that”). Don't offer advice or an opinion unless you're asked. Sometimes all that is required is for the person to” get it off his chest”.

Try to determine not only what the person wants but why the person wants it. Perhaps the difficult person confronting you has simply adopted the most obvious solution to them. By knowing why the person wants a certain thing, you might be able to offer alternative ways of solving the problem. Keep in mind it's very difficult for someone to stay angry with someone who agrees with them. Just by saying “I understand” you will diffuse some of the anger. If you have played some role in bringing about the behavior you are being subjected to, accept blame. By shouldering some of the blame, it makes it easier for the other person to do the same. You're not interested in “wins” but rather in ending the difficult behavior, getting what you want in creating an atmosphere of cooperation.

But wait - there's more.

Remember - it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

t the la     © Dick Caldwell 2012