Don’t Take a Customer’s Words and Actions Personally

June 3, 2024
Retail customer in conflict with worker.

Have you been on the receiving end of a customer’s aggressive words or behavior? How did you feel during and after the hostility? Hurt, upset, confused, mad? Did you feel that you must have done something wrong? Did you want to yell right back at the customer?

In these instances, it’s important to stay calm and in control. While it may be easier said than done, we must try to not take someone’s hurtful tone or actions personally. In our Verbal Intervention training program, we refer to this as Rational Detachment.

If we don’t practice Rational Detachment, we are more likely to respond in a defensive, argumentative way, which could further escalate a situation. Our intention in a situation like this is to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

So, how do we rationally detach when someone loses their temper or suddenly becomes violent? Here are a few helpful tips.

Have a Plan

One of the first things we recommend is that you have a plan ready ahead of time for how to respond to some common outbursts that could occur in your workplace. Practice calm, professional responses to the outbursts you may face by visualizing yourself in a situation with a difficult customer and responding exactly how you would.

Strategic visualization is a common concept, especially in sports. Many athletes, for instance, envision themselves running the perfect route for a touchdown, hitting a home run, or acing a serve.

Use Positive Self-Talk

We need to realize that we may not be the true target of someone’s hostile behavior and that anyone else could have received the same outburst. Tell yourself, “This may not be about the two of us; it may be about other issues in his life.” Or repeat to yourself, “I’m going to be respectful... I’m going to be respectful… I’m going to be respectful.”

Release Negative Energy

It’s important to explore various ways to release the negative energy our bodies and minds gather during a confrontation. Positive, healthy ways of doing this include exercising, taking breaks, and meditating. For example, take a walk around outside to clear your head after a heated conversation. Call a loved one to help prevent you from replaying the conflict over and over in your mind. Drive around blaring upbeat music and singing to calm down and release stress.

These reminders are great ways for you to maintain and promote a workplace culture of respect, service, and safety.

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Connect with us to learn how CPI training can help create a culture of safety and well-being for your customers and staff.

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