Have you ever held a customer service job and faced an irate customer? Or perhaps you had someone on the phone who was giving you a piece of their mind, angry that something didn’t go their way and now was using you as their punching bag.
It’s not fun, is it?
I’ve been known to show my irritation and annoyance with bad customer service, but there have been times when the lion within me has been tamed. Those who have changed my mind, even slightly about anything, used a technique that works wonders.
The Fine Art of Gentleness
When I was in college, one of my favorite classes was “Voice and Articulation.” I found it fascinating. I liked studying dialects but what was truly fascinating was how someone’s tone of voice could communicate sometimes more than the actual words being spoken.
This is commonly seen in close relationships.
Boyfriend to girlfriend: “What’s wrong?”
Girlfriend (said with a sigh of annoyance): “Nothing. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
Boyfriend: “You don’t sound fine. You sound annoyed. What’s the problem?”
Girlfriend (said with a raised voice and shaking hands): “I’m fine! I said I’m fine! Now leave me alone!”
Clearly the girlfriend isn’t fine.
Her boyfriend at this point has the choice of either taking her at her word and leaving her alone or probing to find out what is bothering her. The latter requires a bit of social finesse and the gentleness of a dove.
He could say, in a gentle voice, “Sweetheart, you say you’re fine but your voice gives you away. What’s wrong and how can I help? Talk to me.”
Nine times out of ten, that approach usually works. The woman agrees to share what is really bothering her and soon, the boyfriend helps her deal with it. A gentle tone of voice calms people.
Convince a Person You Are On Their Side
This is also a powerful technique when dealing with an angry person. When a person is complaining to you (or worse, blaming you for something), it’s tempting to fight fire with fire. But that won’t get you anywhere.
It’s much more effective to allow the person to vent, and then when appropriate, add your agreement that yes, indeed, this problem is annoying. Let the other person know that you’ve heard their frustration and agree that it is difficult, inconvenient, annoying, etc.
Using the phrase, “I don’t blame you for being so upset, I would be too if this happened to me,” can pave the way for a quicker resolution.
If a person feels as though you are an ally instead of an adversary, there’s a very good chance they’ll relax and listen to what you have to say.
Friendliness begets friendliness. I have found that when I show friendliness to people, whether they’re strangers, acquaintances, or family and friends – I usually get friendliness in return.
Using phrases such as, “This may be something worth thinking about” or “With your knowledge, you’ll easily understand why…” can open the doors to understanding and agreement.
I’ve always loved the word “entreat.” It means to plead, especially in order to persuade. There is an element of humbling oneself when one entreats. This is what is needed when dealing with an angry or annoyed person.
If you try to bulldoze them with your superior knowledge or tell them directly that you’re right and they’re wrong, then it’s game over. They’ll dig in their heels and fight you even harder.
As our grandmothers used to say, you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Most people are stressed and a sympathetic ear will soothe them into a more compliant mood. However, there will be some people who no matter what you do or how friendly and helpful you are, it won’t be enough.
But for most people, being gentle, friendly, understanding, and sympathetic will win the day.