Jaime Scott  |  October 7, 2016  | 

Zen and the art of dealing with difficult people.

We’ve all been there.

Someone has a go at you, or says something that upsets you, and the resultant feelings of upset and anger just won’t go away. In fact, you end up carrying this negativity around with you, ready to unleash it upon the next unfortunate soul who happens to cross your path.

All very well, but what if your job is dealing with a steady flow of potentially agitated people? For those of you who have never been on the frontline of a call centre, welcome to the world of an agent.

You could argue that it is part and parcel of the job, and you need to learn to deal with it or find alternative employment. But the truth is that many agents enjoy the vast majority of their interactions, and only have to deal with the occasional ‘difficult’ customer.

Gartner are currently championing the cause of Workforce Engagement Management; how the shift of focus from optimisation to employee engagement is essential to improving the customer experience.

All very true, but it’s difficult to stay engaged when you have steam coming out of your ears.

But having to deal with negativity isn’t just the preserve of the call centre agent; we all have to deal with ‘difficult’ people; whether they be bosses, colleagues, neighbours or that van driver who cut you up in the traffic.

So how do you deal with it? What can you do to motivate yourself and stop yourself from carrying this negativity around with you for the rest of the day?

Below are some tips on how to let go of your negative feelings and start your next interaction with a clean sheet and possibly even a smile on your face.

1. Laughter is the best medicine.

A good belly laugh has lifted many a dark cloud, so find something that makes you laugh.

Husband to wife: When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?

Wife: I clean the toilet bowl.

Husband: How does that help?

Wife: I use your toothbrush.

2. Find a shoulder to cry on.

Contact someone who can sympathise, or even better empathise with your situation, and not somebody who will fuel the fires.

3. Meditate.

You don’t have to sit cross-legged in a room full of candles to experience the power of meditation. Simply by concentrating on the breath, people from all walks of life have discovered its calming powers.

4. Vent it.

Sometimes all you need is an opportunity to share your frustration with someone else and that immediately lightens the load, just be careful about who you choose, you don’t want to simply pass your negativity on to someone else.

5. Play a game.

It should come as no surprise that one of the reasons why we developed our Gamification solution was to inject an element of fun into our working lives. Not only do game mechanics make work more enjoyable, they have been proven to help calm the savage beast.

Releasing negative energy feels relieving, your outlook is no longer clouded, and it removes the baggage which doesn’t serve you anymore.

I leave you with a classic Zen story that perfectly sums up just how other people’s actions can cause us to carry negativity with us, long after we should.

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey, one was a senior monk, the other a junior monk. During their journey they approached a raging river and on the river bank stood a young lady. She was clearly concerned about how she would get to the other side of the river without drowning.

The junior monk walked straight past her without giving it a thought and he crossed the river. The senior monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river. He placed her down, they parted ways with the woman and on they went with the journey.

As the journey went on, the senior monk could see some concern on the junior monk's mind, he asked what was wrong. The junior monk replied, "how could you carry her like that? You know we can't touch women, it's against our way of life". The senior monk answered, "I left the woman at the river’s edge a long way back, why are you still carrying her?"

The Manager’s Handbook to Agent Happiness

A guide for leaders and managers in the contact centre industry who want to create happy and motivated teams

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Jaime Scott

Jaime Scott

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Jaime leads EvaluAgent in delivering people-focused software and services to our customers. After almost twenty years directing customer experience and workforce engagement programmes for some of the UK’s biggest brands, including EE, Barclays and M&S, Jaime’s mission is to make things easier for call centres to deliver a truly great customer experience.


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