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Keeping Your Cool


 Keep cool. Anger is not a an argument.  Daniel Webster

Summer with all the joys it brings, of barbecues and pool parties, of endless sunny days and cool swims, of swarms of mosquitoes and Coldstone ice-cream, of beachwear and sun screen lotion- is finally here.

We try and stay cool in order to deal with the perils of indulging in too much sun worship, wearing light summer clothes, staying out of the hot sun from mid morning to late afternoon. drinking lots of iced tea and refreshing gallons of cold water.

But what should we do when our colleagues, customers and families get us hot under the collar, a phenomenon that is not confined to the summer months, but happens all year round?

At work, there is a time to tolerate and a time to take action. Just accept the fact that it is not going to be peachy all the time.

Our customers and colleagues will not appreciate it if we fly off the handle at every turn. On the one hand it is certainly not professional; on the other it is quite certain to be completely ineffective.

The thing to remember is that both our co-workers and our customers (who pay us) are in fact our customers and both deserve to be treated with respect. They may not always be right however. I most definitely do not subscribe to the notion that the customer is always right; contrary to what most textbook courses on customer service will have us believe.

They are people just as we are and therefore both parties in the service equation deserve to be treated respectfully.  Anything other than that constitutes a violation of our human dignity and right to be respectfully heard.

So if the customer or colleague or boss is not always right, how do we handle differences of opinion in an effective way and stay cool despite a flaring of temper?

1.  Gain space and time

Step away from the issue and give yourself some space. You might also want to take a walk, do an exercise routine, or listen to some music or anything that will take your mind off the immediate irritant.

 If you can’t leave the room, look away , breathe deeply, count to ten, and say, “Point taken” or “I hear you, let me think about that for a moment” or “May I get back to you on that”.  This way you acknowledge that you have listened and heard their complaint, and buy yourself some time to control your reaction.

 2.       Reflect on how to respond

Not all situations deserve a response. However when it does, it is best to think about what one might say, not just drive by a reactive defensiveness, but what one might say to not only defuse the situation, but to also find words that will be effective to find a solution to the troubling situation.

 3.       Get help to prioritize your work

If what your colleague or boss is asking is impossible to do within your available time, most certainly get some help to prioritize what needs to be done in order of importance and urgency.  

 This does not mean you ignore everything else that is your responsibility to complete. Ask what can be kept on the back burner legitimately, so that you don’t neglect other commitments. You will have to master your own schedule so that you can slot some time to meet other deadlines, which could be just as important, but just not on your colleague/boss’s visible agenda.

 If you can’t get the help you need, set your own priorities for everything that needs doing:

A list – Must do or my heads on the chopping block – Do immediately

B list – Other people cannot complete their important or urgent work, because their work depends on mine – Do within deadline

C list – Still on my list for things I can delegate, but haven’t had the time to do so, or failed to refuse to do knowing my time constraints – Learn to say no, but slot a time to do if you committed to do it

D list – Only I remember that this needs doing – do it only if it bothers you that it is not completed

E list – Important for the future – Use available time, to start pro-active actions to avoid last minute rushes on D day

 4.       Offer reasonable completion times

Very often, we tend to offer immediate response times to tasks that may take up a bit more time. We should also factor in some buffer time, given that many situations occur suddenly that require our time and attention and could take away from our available time to get the job done.

 A good rule of thumb is to estimate how long it takes to do and offer a completion date to accommodate twice that amount of time, plus a day.

 There is nothing worse than promising immediate delivery of a service, and then failing to meet that commitment because of quite justifiable delays.

 The damage is compounded because it results in loss of faith, respect, reliability and trust. Even if the situation occurred only once, the customer will not think you are reliable to deliver future services and you may even lose the customer!

 So who is responsible for difficult colleagues, family members and customers? Everyone who allows them to be difficult!

It is up to us to manage our relationships with customers and colleagues. How we keep our cool depends entirely on our capacity to tolerate and our ability to stay in control of our reactive responses.

What strategies do you employ for keeping your Cool?

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Categories : Relationships


  1. Infinity says:

    IMHO you’ve got the right aenswr!

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