Originally published on Inc.com.
Take a look at some of the great debates in the world.
Whether the debate is on a worldwide political scale, a nationwide economic scale, a customer service nightmare or an ongoing battle with a teenager, both parties want a “win.”
So let’s take a scenario that any business owner has been through–customer service. Of course you want the customer to be happy at the end of the interaction, yet sometimes (okay, more often than not), people are upset, angry, frustrated and downright mean when they contact your company with a problem.
They might just be having a bad day. Maybe they are having some personal issues or health challenges. It doesn’t matter because at that moment, their problem is front of mind for them. And they take it out on you or your people.
They want to be RIGHT. And it’s your job to make it happen. Without being frustrated, angry or mean.
You can rely on all the policy training, negotiation and verbal contact training you have, but at the core it’s about behavior. A person’s need to be right is deep rooted. Consider our educational system. You are either right or you are wrong. There is rarely an in-between. You are rewarded for being “right” and punished for being “wrong” according to someone else’s opinion. When you are right, you get good grades, which creates the promise of a successful life.
It is that programming that leads to failed marriages, partnerships, customer service interactions and missed sales opportunities. We’ve all heard the old saying, “The customer is always right,” but do you convey that in your interactions? Probably not.
Because you don’t believe it. And you’re probably right.
And the word “right” is exactly the word you should use in any escalating situation. To quote Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t–you’re right!” It’s the same way in a conversation when you understand this:
A person cannot be wrong about his or her beliefs.
If they believe they have a problem, they do. If they believe the problem is with your product or service, it is. (at least in their mind). If they believe that you are to blame, it’s your fault (again, only in their mind).
When people feel their beliefs being challenged, they hold tighter to being right, which causes situations to go off track through blame, anger and frustration.
So what do you do?
1. Remember, people need to be right
Just knowing this puts you head and shoulders above the population who doesn’t understand this basic human need.
2. Let the person state his/her opinion
Remember, it’s an opinion and a belief. A person cannot be wrong their beliefs. (You’re right. This one is a mind-twister).
3. Tell them they are right
You cannot even get into a discussion about the actual situation without diffusing the negative emotions driving the need to be right. A simple, “You’re right,” will go so far. Remember that if they think they are right you can agree with them for the bigger purpose of getting to the REAL problem.
4. Help them change their beliefs
Once you’ve told them they are “right,” they will feel better and begin to discuss the real problem in a much calmer way. Now you can go about your method of solving the problem in whatever way you or your company policies dictate.
5. If the situation escalates again, start over with step #1.
When you understand that anger is most often caused by conflicting beliefs and a deep-seated unconscious need to be right, you will be able to handle difficult situations without taking things personally. When you can do that, you will have productive conversations that lead to faster and more complete problem solving, conflict-free relationships and a more peaceful life.
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