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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 10, 2020 • Issue 20:08:01


Defuse upsets in four easy steps

There is no denying these are especially challenging times. COVID-19 is affecting people from all walks of life across the globe. Folks who are either lucky enough to not be personally impacted or are able to adapt quickly to negative events are perhaps not suffering, but it's likely they know people who have been harmed by this pandemic through compromised health, loss of loved ones or loss of livelihood.

With people under more stress than usual, tempers can flare when they otherwise would not. And sometimes anger might be directed straight at you or someone near you by co-workers, customers, family members, neighbors—even total strangers.

When it comes to angry strangers — for example, a patron at a retailer who refuses to wear a mask and spits on the employee charged with addressing the situation — I believe it's best to leave the vicinity. Attempting to intervene could escalate the situation, and you could become the target of someone's rage. Get to a safe place and phone 911 if the incident looks dangerous.

You've got this

Luckily, most of us are unlikely to face such a situation. The upsets you face might be more numerous than usual, but you can generally handle them the same way you've handled similar situations in the past. Certain steps can be taken whether you're dealing with co-workers, customers, friends or family. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Remain calm and listen: Use all the active listening skills you've been honing in your business. Let the person have their say. Let them know through body language, facial expression and words that you are listening. And do not condescend, talk over them or try to correct them. Do not become defensive and take what the person is saying personally. Aim to gain and understanding of what the upset is and let them know they're being heard.
  2. Give empathetic feedback: Put yourself in the upset person's shoes and recap verbally your understanding of what they've just said. Number their points, if possible, which helps them focus in a more intellectual and less emotional way. Don't be judgmental. Convey that you understand what they are going through.
  3. Be supportive and solutions oriented: Let them know you are there to help. Ask them for ideas on possible solutions and offer some of your own. List what your next steps will be, and let them know you are committed to resolving the situation.
  4. Aim high: Remind the person of what brought you together in the first place, what your common mission is, and the value of working through difficulties to reach your common goals. And reiterate your commitment to finding a resolution acceptable to all.

As Linda Larsen, a motivational speaker and author said, anger is a normal, healthy emotion. "Sometimes, people can allow their anger to cloud their judgment and negatively impact their behaviors," she wrote in Speaking of Women's Health. "Remember: when the other person is angry and upset and you are calm, then you are in control of the situation." end of article

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