We all come across people who are difficult at some point in at least one area of our lives. Difficult clients are particularly challenging since we naturally want to please them and have them continue doing business with us. It is human nature to react with frustration, worry, anger, or indignation when someone we are dealing with is being unreasonable and difficult. However, although those are natural reactions, they do not solve the problem. The good news is: there is a way that is highly effective in changing the attitude of the other person. It is simple, but needs practice.
Treat the other person as if they are behaving in the way you wish they would. That may seem like a tall order, but bear with me and I’ll explain how you can achieve this. Firstly, let’s look at why it works. People respond to others primarily subconsciously. They react and respond pretty much on automatic for the most part, with very little conscious involvement.
Just as, when someone is rude to us, we automatically react in a certain way (stress chemicals are immediately produced in the brain, resulting in the feelings of indignation, anger, hurt etc.) when someone is warm and kind, no matter how angry or grumpy we are, something deep down inside us responds to that. Oxytocin and other similar chemicals are produced when we experience warmth, kindness and connection.
When someone is angry, difficult and unreasonable, if you react according to the way they are behaving, no matter how diplomatic you are, they will probably continue on that same path. If, however you react as if they are behaving in a positive, enthusiastic and friendly way, they will eventually automatically begin to show more of those traits without even realizing it. The trick is to genuinely respond exactly as you would if the person was being genuinely friendly. That is the key to the success of this technique.
So, how is it possible to respond to someone who is rude and unreasonable as if they are being friendly and supportive? Imagination. You imagine you are talking to someone who is positive and friendly. This may seem impossible at first, but it only takes practice. It is a skill you can learn and master. You could teach this technique to your team, and practice on each other. The more you practice looking at an angry person and seeing friendliness, the easier it will get, and the better you will get at it.
Take it in turns to play the difficult client, and give each person a chance to speak to that “client” as if they are being friendly and warm. This is also a fun team building activity that will help your team develop these communication skills without realizing it. You could also test this technique on strangers. When you come across a miserable store clerk or bank teller, speak to that person exactly as you would to a bubbly, friendly person – be consistent – and watch them transform in front of you!