I’m in a very big city this week facilitating Supporting Individuals With Dementia and Related Cognitive Challenges. This is an advanced renewal course that CPI offers, and one I very much enjoy teaching.

During lunch and after class each day, I go to the deli on the corner. It’s a “gourmet” deli, which means that the cockroaches wear tuxedos and greet you at the door. I always appreciate that. The food is really spectacular, however, and there is a wide variety of things you can get. Their chicken salad is some of the best I’ve ever had, and the prices are very reasonable considering the locale. The people working there are good at what they do, and they keep the place humming along.

The customers can be challenging, as I have witnessed on more than one occasion. One lady started to give the man behind the counter some grief when he asked her to stand aside so he could take care of another customer. There were a few challenging questions as well as some refusal behavior. I was expecting a confrontation to unfold, but the employee kept his cool. Another incident occurred when a male customer began yelling at another employee about the price he was paying for his order. I witnessed the same decision not to engage from this other employee. These workers were in control at all times and I was really impressed.

The people who work at this deli don’t appear to be highly educated, work in human service, or have any training in crisis behavior management. Yet, they de-escalated behavior by not engaging in the argument.

With my most recent purchase, I asked the man behind the counter how his day was going. He replied that his day was going all right. I then asked whether he had had any disgruntled customers that particular day and he mentioned that he had. He finished by saying, “Best for me to ignore.” He summed up Rational Detachment with those five simple words.

In training, I often mention choosing your battles and not opening up the argument-party invitation as some of the best ways to deal with Defensive behavior. Yet, this is a man who lives by those rules every single day. If he can do it, with minimal education, lack of a human-service degree, and the absence of any crisis prevention training, I'm thinking that we can all do it too.

So . . . next time you're on the receiving end of a complaint, remember the deli-counter man and take the verbal agitation with a grain of salt. You may want to pick up a pint of chicken salad while you're at it.

Get more helpful hints about behavior management.