It takes a lot of self control to remain calm in difficult situations. When you have someone yelling at you on the other end of a phone, it’s not pleasant. Most people dislike such situations. Don’t fear these spots. Consider them opportunities to hone your communications skills. Mastering and managing difficult conversations is a valuable skill — and key to positive public relations.
Here are three ways to get a grip on difficult phone calls and not have them deteriorate into chaos.
1. Anticipate negative reaction and be ready. Sure, it’s a cliche to say “put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” however, if you’re in the business of communicating, you have to be prepared. Not everyone will be receptive to what your organization or business does. Being prepared means you’re ready to respond in situations which are positive AND those which are difficult. Think of yourself as a sports coach. The very best coaches are prepared for any situation, including losing streaks, locker room infighting, and costly mistakes in games. Now, maybe you’re not a sports coach with a team of players, but you do have to manage how you communicate.
2. Be a good listener. Listening is a skill that is often overlooked. Too often we want to interrupt conversations. Interrupting an already difficult conversation is a sure-fire way to further anger someone who’s already upset. When you interrup, you’ll start a cycle of voices being raised, by both you and the other person. When this happens, the call becomes an inflammatory mess. When people are angry, they want to be heard. So let them speak their mind. The whole time, just listen. When it’s your turn to speak, you’ll know it. Let that opportunity happen naturally, rather than forcing it early.
3. Always appreciate that someone has taken the time to contact you. AND make sure you end on a high note. Think about this: Someone is not happy with you or your organization. So… a) that person has taken the time to look up your phone number. b) Perhaps they have also looked up your name. AND c) they have taken time from their day to dial that number, and d) perhaps go through a switchboard or voicemail hell, all in the name of talking to you. Isn’t that incredible? It should be! Appreciate the effort of that person. Even if they are angry. And remember this: the person obviously has passion. That’s why they’re calling. That’s amazing! Always remember one thing at the end of every phone call. Thank the person for calling. Even if they were screamers. But I bet if you’ve followed these three steps, the caller will not be yelling and screaming at the end of the conversation.
Good luck turning difficult phone conversations into successful AND positive conversations.