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The Perfect Response for Difficult Situations

Do you have a hard time knowing what to say in difficult situations? Sometimes it is hard to think on your feet and handle difficult individuals. I was elated to find some advice from Sam Horton over at Women’s Media. She has some great tips for communicating more constructively with customers and colleagues, and best of all she knows what to say when you don’t know what to say!

 

#1: When people complain, don’t explain.

Explaining why something wasn’t done when it was supposed to be done makes people angrier because they feel we’re making excuses. Instead, Agree, Apologize and Act. “You’re right Mrs. Doe, we were supposed to send that brochure to you last week, and I’m sorry you didn’t receive it yet. If I could please have your name and address again, I’ll personally put that brochure in an envelope and make sure it goes out today.” Complaint over!

 

#2: When someone accuses you of something you didn’t do.

Don’t defend or deny it. For example, if someone blindsides you with the unfair allegation, “You women are so emotional!” and you protest with, “We’re not emotional!” you’ve just proven their point. Instead, put the conversational ball back in their court with, “What do you mean?” Asking them to explain themselves will cause them to reveal the real issue, and you can address that instead of reacting to their attack.

 

Tip #3: Stop disagreements with a hand gesture.

If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder and the voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words: “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.”

 

Tip #4: Have to give bad news?

Don’t use the apathetic words, “There’s nothing I can do.” People feel your brushing them off, and tend to get more vehement in an effort to make you care. Instead, use the words, “I wish,” “I hope,” or “There is something” to let them know you are at least trying to help them. In the real world, we can’t always give people what they want, but at least we can give them our concern and viable options.

 

Tip #5: Has someone made a mistake?

If something’s gone wrong and we tell people what they should have done, they will resent us, even if what we’re saying is right. Why? People can’t undo the past. If they are being reprimanded for something they can’t change, they’ll channel their feeling of helplessness or guilt into antagonism towards us. From now on when people make a mistake, use the words “next time” or “in the future” instead of criticizing what happened with the word “should.” Now, you are shaping their behavior instead of shaming it, and they are learning instead of losing face.

 

Tip#6: Develop a repertoire of fun remarks.

Erma Bombeck said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Are you sensitive about something? Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds. You have a choice. You can be hyper-sensitive about this and give people the power to embarrass you, or you can come up with clever, non-combative comebacks and keep your wit(s) about you. For example, a very tall man dreaded going out of the house because everyone made smart aleck remarks. He finally decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he might as well join ‘em and started wearing t-shirts that said things such as, “No, I’m not a basketball player!” or I’m 6’13” and the weather up here’s fine.” Coming up with just the right remarks can help you lighten up instead of tighten up.

 

Tip #7: Turn “can’t, because” into “sure, as soon as.”

Imagine a staff member asks, “Can I have my paycheck early? I’m going to Las Vegas this weekend.” And you answer, “No you can’t have your paycheck because it hasn’t been approved by payroll.” That’s the truth. However, it’s a tactless way of rejecting a request. The words “can’t, because” are like a verbal door slamming in the person’s face. Want good news? You can often approve requests with the words, “Sure, as soon as” or “Yes, right after.” Re-word your reply to, “Sure you can have your paycheck, as soon as it’s approved by payroll. Why don’t we give them a call, explain the circumstances and see if there’s any way they can speed things up.”