As an entrepreneur, there is one thing we need to make our businesses exist – people! There are days I love people! The joy I experience when I see them grow, when I see one of our companies provide them with something that influences their lives and makes life better for them. Then there are the days when I scratch my head and wonder, “did that encounter really just take place?” Guess what – you can experience both those emotions, joy and dismay, at the hand of the same person, in the same five minute time span.
One afternoon a customer requested a meeting with me. I asked why and she said, ” I have a problem with one of your policies.” I had a good relationship with the individual so I really thought it was an easy fix if I explained why we follow a specific protocol.
The meeting began like any other. The individual walked into my office and proceeded to tell me all the things she loved about our company. She even thanked me for what we were doing for her family. Then she proceeded to explain my policy that wasn’t working for her. I told her I understood but here was the reason I couldn’t honor her request for an exception to our policy. I thought I was logical, kind, and rationally explained why I could not make an exception for her. Her response was shocking.
Her voice got progressively louder as she informed me that she was the kind of customer I wanted and needed in my establishment. My door was open and I began to realize the hallway was getting very quiet. Her voice continued to grow louder as she told me she was important in our town and was a respected business owner herself. Then she threatened to write a one star review on Google. When it was clear that I would not honor her request she left my office. (She did make good on that Google review and added a negative email to 400 of her own customers). When she reached the door at the end of the hall which was still filled with customers and employees she turned and shouted words which still ring in my ears… “You should be ashamed of this business and the way you run it.” She tried to slam the door but the air pump prohibited her final act of drama.
Then the most amazing thing happened when the door was closed. At first there were a few seconds of silence as everyone was stunned at the outburst they had witnessed. Then the entire hallway broke into laughter. Employees and customers alike were just shaking their heads and several just smiled as they walked by. One who knew the woman well said, “I know who that was but I have never met that version of her.”
People, love them or dislike them, but either way you have to learn to deal with them. We all handle the pleasant encounters pretty well. In fact we crave them. Words of affirmation and praise fuel us! But those difficult encounters. That’s where I need help. I know there are thousands of books dealing with every aspect of our relationships with our family, friends, customers, and employees. My favorite is “Mary Kay on Managing People.” But because I know you are short on time I have come up with “Dave’s Top Nine Ways of Dealing with People in a Difficult Situation.”
*Rule #1 Adhere to the Mister Rogers Principle. Before you unleash any type of negative verbiage ask yourself “would Fred say that.” I never heard or read of Mr. Rogers uttering words that were harsh, destructive or retaliatory. Maybe a lesson we all need to learn.
*Rule #2 You Can Never Take back Words Once they Have left your Mouth. They may be forgiven but they are seldom forgotten! I can’t stress this enough. I know we want to give others a piece of our mind. We want to get our own way. We want to be in charge. We want our voices to be heard and we don’t want to be trampled. We are RIGHT, after all!! But the sad truth is that none of us is 100% right at any given time. We could change so much if we remember our words can destroy or they can build up. They are rarely neutral and they are rarely forgotten. II Corinthians 9:3 reminds us that words can encourage others to action.
*Rule #3. Make a choice to Respond not React. In every encounter you have a choice. Let your emotions dictate your response, or think and respond logically and analytically. I know we can’t always set emotions aside, but the more we can control them the better our day. Yes, people will tromp on you and all that you stand for but don’t react, respond.
*Rule #4. Look Below the Surface and Don’t Take Things personally – It’s Not all About You. I have come to realize that no one lives the life we assume they do. Take a minute to consider what might be driving someone’s behavior. Then realize that often people’s responses are not really about you – they are about them and their situation.
*Rule #5. Listen to what others say for words of truth but protect your heart against personal unwarranted attacks. People often know our most vulnerable area and they aim right for it. Continually put who God says you are and what He has called you to do at the center of your thoughts.
*Rule#6. Realize we all have just a little bit of Crazy and Stupid in us. Come on – be honest. There is no one “normal!”
*Rule #7. Try to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Yep – even when they don’t deserve it. Nothing is ever accomplished by tearing someone else down.
*Rule 8. Learn to Stand your ground. This was a tough one for me. In the early days I was afraid of losing customers and bringing a blemish on our reputation. But I soon learned that I had to stand for what is right and the principles I had built our businesses upon. I can’t compromise because standing firm is uncomfortable and compromise would be easier.
*Rule 9. Be thankful for the people who are positive and speak life with their words and follow their example. The Encouragers! God bless them! They get more accomplished because they look for ways to move us forward with words that instruct and build us up. If you have them in your life hold on to them. Better yet, be one yourself.
I mentioned II Corinthians 9:3 earlier. The verse contains this thought – “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.” I want to develop success in my businesses but I know it’s more important to develop success in life. At the end of the day, I hope my words are enthusiastic and positively stir others to action. In every situation let’s think about using words that “speak life.”