“It’s a stupid day. Whatever.”
Does this exchange sound familiar? Have you ever had an encounter with someone where you greeted them with a pleasant “Good morning” and received less than a pleasant response? Or a response that surprised you by the words or the ferocity of the words?
We often assume, and even expect, that everyone is having a great day, just like us. In reality though, coworkers, customers, or the general public we may encounter are all dealing with potentially negative influences to their behavior.
In CPI training, we call these influences Precipitating Factors. We define them as the internal or external causes of behavior over which a staff member has little or no control.
Little or no control. So what can you do if you experience this type of exchange?
1. First, take a step back, either literally or mentally.
This allows you to separate, or, at the very least, identify your emotional response from the exchange. Taking a step back allows time to regroup and ensure that your own behavior or response doesn’t escalate the situation.
2. Take a breath.
Once you’ve stepped back from the situation, take a deep breath. Taking a deep breath or two helps your body calm down. It will then help you think more clearly about how to respond.
3. Consider the influences.
Recognize that the person may be experiencing things in their life that have nothing to do with you, but just contributed to their poor response. Precipitating Factors can be internal, and can include sickness, lack of sleep, stress, pain, or side effects from pharmaceuticals. They can also be external. Examples include family problems, a change in job responsibilities, or even a flat tire on the way to work.
4. Don’t take it personally.
Once you do the first three things, you’re on your way to maintaining your professionalism and rationally detaching. Know that you can’t control the person who said “It’s a stupid day. Whatever.” But you can control your own response to the person and not take their response personally. Your goal should be to be part of the solution to disrespectful situations—not part of the problem. Recognize that you may be experiencing your own Precipitating Factors too, which could contribute to a less than positive response to the negativity you received in the person’s response.
5. Check in with the person if it seems appropriate.
When a situation like this occurs you may want to check in with the individual to see how they’re doing. If you do this, be realistic about your expectations. Understand that you can listen to what they’re saying and possibly empathize, but keep in mind that you may have limited control over any outcomes or solutions. Be nonjudgmental in your approach, so as not to escalate the situation or your next interaction. Instead of accusing the person of being rude, ask them if there is something bothering them that they’d like to talk about.
These strategies can help you maintain respect in your workplace—even when you feel someone’s been rude. What are some other ways that you’ve been able to rationally detach from an incident like this?