How to disagree without being disagreeable

Being in conflict involves having a difference of opinion. You can air that difference without causing offence.

There are many situations where you need to express disagreement tactfully. For example, you might need to express concern about an idea promoted by your boss. Your parents might have expectations you can’t meet. Or you might need to keep your partner on-side, whilst telling them your opinion differs from theirs. In these situations, you can use the following process.

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Make your message stick

Want people to listen to you? Then you need to present a compelling message. Here are three ways to make a message take hold.

Speak their language

picPeople listen to what makes sense to them. This means you need to frame your message from their perspective. For example, there’s a big difference between the following two statements. Which would you be most likely to listen to?

  • Today I’m going to describe how the new computer program will streamline customer service processes in the business
  • Do you want a better way to close sales? The new program will help you do it!

 

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Get your point across

When people won’t listen, you need to focus their attention. Use the Broken Record technique to do this.

This technique involves repeating your message until it is heard. The name ‘Broken Record’ refers to what happens when old fashioned vinyl records are scratched – the needle of a record player loops over the same section of the recording indefinitely. There are six steps involved in using Broken Record.

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What to do about abusive callers

Are your customers much nastier on the phone than face to face? Here’s how to put a stop to their behaviour.

Be clear about your company’s policy

Your employer has a duty of care. You should be protected from being bullied or harassed. This means having a policy on how abusive customers are handled. A good policy should outline how you can respond to abuse, when you should transfer a caller to someone more senior and how to end a call if abuse is unreasonable. Make sure you’re familiar with your company’s policy. If they don’t have one, draft one and propose it to management.

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Handling irate customers

Nobody likes dealing with angry customers. But if you work in customer service, it’s part of your job.

Here are four tips that make talking to angry customers easier.

Remember that customers aren’t always right

No. The old saying isn’t true – customers aren’t always right. But they are always customers. Without them, you wouldn’t be in business. So treat all customers respectfully, even when they’re wrong. Never say “you’re wrong,” “that’s wrong” or “you’ve made a mistake.” Words like this trigger a shame reaction – which many customers deal with by becoming angry. Instead say “I’m sorry you got that impression,” “I’ll talk you through what happened” or “I’d like to clarify something.” Quickly move on to solving the problem, rather than dwelling on what caused it.

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How to ‘call’ bad behaviour

Psychologists recommend ‘calling out’ passive aggressive people on their tactics. How can you do this without creating conflict?

There are four steps involved in calling out poor behaviour assertively and calmly.

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Sorting out team conflict

Kym had made an informal complaint about Antony ‘bullying’ her. Now Michael, their supervisor, had to sort out the situation. Michael had done the right thing by taking Kym’s complaint seriously. But he wasn’t quite sure what to do next. He called me for advice. Here’s what I explained about taking on a mediation role when you’re a manager.

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Managing Irrational People

Stella’s performance just wasn’t up to scratch. Kath, her supervisor, was keen to help Stella improve. But whenever Kath gave Stella feedback, the conversation got out of control.

Stella seemed unable to accept any form of feedback without becoming defensive. No matter how Kath worded her message, it triggered tirades and tears. Feeling at a loss about what to do next, Kath came to my course on Dealing with Difficult People.

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Break the rude email cycle

Terence was furious. He’d just received another abrupt, demanding email from his colleague, Tamara. He was fed up with her tone.

Terence came to me for advice on how to handle Tamara. Over three coaching sessions, he learned how to manage her behaviour professionally and assertively. Here are the steps Terence used to request that Tamara change her ways. You can use the same steps to handle colleagues who send rude emails.

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How to empathise with angry customers

Stephen was a customer support officer in a large software company. Years of listening to customer complaints had taken their toll. He was losing patience with his customers.

After a heated conversation with a customer led to a complaint, Stephen’s supervisor enrolled him in my course Handling Difficult Customers. In the first half of the course, we discussed the importance of showing empathy when customers experience problems. Stephen asked “Why should I show empathy when the customer is swearing at me?”

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