How to Deal With Difficult Customers During the Holidays

The holiday season seems to bring out the worst in some people. If you consider all the stress that the season can bring – cooking, shopping, decorating, worrying about money, dealing with family issues, taking vacations – the list can go on and on.

There is not a day goes by that I don’t hear a complaint(s) about dealing with a difficult customer. These complaints come from all levels and industries; customers who:

  • make demands, wanting their needs met in their way, no matter if it follows protocol or not
  • treat you as if you don’t know what you’re talking about, talking down to you
  • have no patience for the process, becoming exasperated at your (perceived) lack of effort
  • don’t understand the direction you are giving them
  • go over your head with a complaint about your behavior, which may or may not have been adverse, but not looking at their own behavior in the situation; they skew the story from reality but you still get called on it
  • are gruff or rude
  • feel entitled (to have what they want when they want)

Let’s face it – we’ve all most likely exhibited one (or more) of the behaviors listed above, perhaps in our busyness or when a personal issue arises that is the underlying cause for our behavior. I’ll admit I’ve been there at time or two myself.

People have their own perspectives and expectations of which lead to conflict of some type. Keeping this fact in mind – individual perceptions and expectations – would help to deal more effectively when facing a difficult customer. It seems that expectations have become wanting the latest and greatest, and now -now- now.

Here are some tips to help you deal with a difficult customer:

  • Check yourself each day: question your beliefs, perceptions and expectations about others and how you are presenting yourself; check for any biases you have, or defenses, such as if someone comes up and doesn’t smile does not mean they are not a nice person
  • Breathe – take a deep breath before responding to a difficult customer; you don’t have to respond right away. Taking a few breaths will slow your response down so you can think and communicate more clearly
  • Prep your mindset – mentally preparing yourself will go a long way to dealing with demanding or other adverse behaviors; some suggestions include: visualization, mindfulness, setting an intention each morning to set the tone for the day, taking a break and going outside, using self-talk and validation that you will get through a situation calmly
  • Read up on conflict management – see if your organization offers a course or read books/blogs to learn why conflict exists and steps to resolve it. This will help you to be a more effective communicator and leads to better interactions
  • Remember, it’s about them, not you – people respond by how they think and feel which has nothing to do with you. Remembering this – and being empathetic – will allow to take their behavior less personally when you realize they may be having a bad day or they may be worried about an ill family member or their job
  • Remain calm in how you interact and diffuse any issues needing resolved; let them that you hear their concerns, which is really what they want. The calmer you are, and the more you validate their concern, the less angry or demanding they will be.

Difficult people are a fact of life, some being more difficult than others. It doesn’t seem to be getting better, with advancing technology and fickle consumer needs. The holidays seem to bring this out more with the stressors of the season.  Learning how to deal with these increasing changes and being more aware of human behavior, yours included, is what will help you to deal with those difficult customers you encounter on a daily basis. The holidays won’t be a dreaded season any longer.


5 Smart, Effective Ways to Protect Yourself from Negativity

Negativity affects your life on every level. It has the power to ruin relationships, decrease work performance, and increase stress levels. Negativity in the workplace can be extremely toxic for the team and the culture of the organization. It can also spread throughout the organization, not taking long before it flows throughout; you might soon find yourself feeling negative about your work by just listening to negative comments day-after-day.

The good news is that you can fight it by changing your mindset. You do get the choice for where you place your thoughts. It’s important to understand that the longer you keep thinking them, the harder it can be to change them. But there are many techniques to do so.

Not sure where to start? Check out these smart, effective ways to protect yourself from negativity:

Don’t Take It Personally

Most people act in a certain way based on their previous experiences and current circumstances. Perhaps someone took credit for your colleague’s work in the past, so now he doesn’t trust his team anymore. That doesn’t mean he has something against you. He simply doesn’t trust people in general.

Stop taking things personally. If someone is misjudging you, prove to them that they are wrong. Be kind and authentic rather than stressing over it.

Set Boundaries

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to please everyone. On the contrary – people will always come up with new demands and take advantage of your kindness. That can undermine your self-esteem and keep you from focusing on your priorities.

Learn to say No and set clear boundaries. If someone reacts negatively or tries to hurt you, move on. That person isn’t worth your time or attention.

A true friend will understand that you have other things to do and that you’re not available around the clock. I find that most people know they are crossing a boundary and don’t get as upset as we think they might. If you believe they will, ask the question “Do I know this to be absolutely true?” You can’t say yes to that question (or any, for that matter).

Adopt a Positive Mindset

Be grateful for what you have and then seek ways to achieve more. Start a gratitude journal and write a few things every day. That will reinforce positive thinking patterns and reduce negativity. Be sure to be grateful, and appreciate, not only things in your life, but for you – your strengths, skills, aptitudes, and the like, which will raise you esteem and you can focus on your needs and desires.

Your positive attitude will also inspire others and strengthen your relationships. The more you focus on the good in your life, the more opportunities will arise.

Find Solutions, Not Problems

Most people tend to focus on the problems they are facing instead of actively seeking solutions. That results in feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction. Our brains have this way of only focusing on the problem the more those thoughts are given.

Whenever you have a problem, take the steps needed to solve it. Sit down and write out possible solutions that would resolve any problems you have; the brain will work towards getting it. The longer you wait, the more obstacles you’ll face along the way.

Stay away from people who make a drama out of everything. They’re only wasting your time and energy. Their negativity will affect you sooner or later.

Surround yourself with positivity. Build relationships with people who encourage and support you. It is said that we are the product of our environment which includes those around us; expand your realm and put up boundaries on those who deplete you.

Remember that people don’t care that much about what you say or do. Focus on whatever makes you happy and stop feeding the negativity around you. Once you take these steps, you’ll be happier and see new opportunities that you’d otherwise have missed.