Conflict and Customer service have some similarities, so let us look at “How to Treat Conflict Like Customer Service Now.”
“How Can I Help You.” This a simple question we expect in customer service around the world, but it might have a much more important place in these times.
Why haven’t more people in the violence prevention and self-defence industry made it common when teaching conflict resolution rather than adopting a badass stance and yelling, “Back Off!” To begin with, that statement has little to do with verbal de-escalation and conflict resolution.
I offer you a couple of reasons why this question should be part of every conflict resolution training program. Whether in our daily lives, the workplace or the shit is about to hit the fan in an escalating conflict.
Imagine you are in a conflict with someone you have never met. It does not matter how it started. You are still determining if it is a circumstantial conflict or if you are being targeted. Still, you are standing face-to-face with someone yelling at you and finger-pointing.
The person is approaching you aggressively, and your first thought is to say something like, “Hey, Relax there, Buddy!” or “Calm Down, Skippy!”. But you resist because you have read in Chris’ book “DISARM DAILY CONFLICT” that this person will see your comment as sarcasm.
You think, let’s give it a try, and you politely but confidently say from a passive stance with your hands up, “How Can I Help You?”
First, when asked honestly, this question will not challenge or threaten the person, as my friend Richard Dimitri teaches. They stop in their tracks and begin to tell you the issue they have with you. You are thinking, WOW, they are actually answering my question.
They accuse you of something, and from there, you address their issue. Whether you come to an amicable resolution, agree to disagree, but part ways. Or they proceed to get more aggressive; the question of “How Can I Help You?” is a potent tool in conflict resolution.
First and foremost, as stated, it is not challenging for the other person. Just saying the words alone does not escalate the scenario unless you say it with some sarcasm, underlying challenge, or threat.
On the contrary, asking, “What’s Your Problem?” may sound similar but is rarely spoken with an empathetic desire to understand the other person’s issue. I can’t think of a time I have heard someone say that; the intention was to ask what the problem might be honestly.
Suppose the person begins to tell you how you can help them by stating the issue. In that case, you can adopt the appropriate strategy, which is an apology if you are guilty of what they are accusing you of.
Asking, “How Can I Help You?” is a polite way to seek the source of their anger. However, if done with the appropriate body language and tone, you will often see an immediate reduction in their temperament.
If you ask, “How Can I Help You?” and the person stops and tells you, there is a very high chance it is due to circumstantial events. You can reach some resolution 10 times out of 10, assuming you maintain the proper strategies.
On the other hand, suppose the person ignores, disregards the question, keeps advancing, talking over you, or not letting you get a word in. In that case, there is a high chance you will have to defend yourself. Regardless the question is helpful to you in how to strategize from that point on.
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