This is something I need more practice with; not that I want more disagreeable people in my life. But the reality is, sometimes you get stuck dealing with someone who is disagreeable in general, or that you just do not get along with. If you were in a bar, you’d could just go sit somewhere else and the problem is solved. But in business, you may find yourself in a daily setting where this person is front and center. So now what?
Your life in is the hands of anyone who makes you lose your temper – Bruce Lee
I do a pretty good job of controlling my emotions when I know a situation is going to be difficult or confrontational. I rehearse things in my head, brace for the worst, and control my breathing. What I personally struggle with is when things start out fine and escalate, or if I am caught off guard with someone’s aggression. I didn’t have a game plan in advance, and so I struggle to contain my own emotions at times. It is way worse with someone that I already have issue with, versus a person I am not familiar with.
Currently I have more than one person that I would put into the category of those I’d rather not associate with. They are not all work people either, it extends out farther than that. And I do not have a good poker face, so it is usually no secret how I feel about them, as I just struggle to hide it. In effort to avoid doing or saying anything that is embarrassing to myself, giving them validation, or allow things to escalate to the point of no return, I will strive to do a better job in the future of the rehearsed actions I listed above. But there is one important piece to the equation that makes all of the difference:
Sounds easy enough, but it is not. That is what a “reaction” is, an immediate, knee-jerk response to an action or statement. You need to drive a wedge between what you hear……..and how you react to it. If you can just learn to pause after everything that is said, inhale through your nose and exhale slowly, and then respond, the world would be a better place. I know my world is when I do it, and it would be great if I did it more. This is an acquired skill that takes a LOT of practice for most people. It is one thing to be a call center operator getting a call from a pissed off customer; you can continue to tell yourself “this isn’t personal” and stick to the script, but when it comes to dealing with a co-worker or a spouse or family member, it is far more personal and hard to stay objective.
In business, you have factors in relationships such as one of client and vendor. You want someone’s business, you need someone’s business, but where do you draw the line as to how much you are willing to deal with from this person. Only you can decide this. The ramifications of you drawing a line in the proverbial sand may have some real impact on your monthly quota numbers. But all of the ego, the bullshit, and the power play that goes into a bad attitude from someone should have its limits. There comes a point where your own integrity needs to be defended and maintained.
There have been a few times where I have had a “come to Jesus” meeting with a client, and things have dramatically improved. I had reached that point with a very large client, a marquee, household name that I added to our client list about 18 months ago. At the six month point, I had been spoon fed enough crap that I had reached my limit. I was ready to fire them as a client, regardless of how much cache their name carried. Luckily there was a third party involved that was able to assist by setting a meeting for both parties to talk things out. It has been smooth sailing ever since, and I am so glad I stood up and said “Enough”. However, there have been times when this approach has resulted in a client leaving. While my life got easier, the hit to the monthly sales quota and my annual numbers was rough to recover from. But I still think I did the right thing, for my own sanity and integrity, as well as my staff who were also involved with those situations. They suffered along with me, but without the benefit of a commission check at the end of the month to ease some of the pain. Making this stance improved the work environment, showed my team members I had their backs, and brought us closer as a team.
There are no hard and fast answers for things like this, as each situation and each person involved is very different. And the reality is, I don’t have any magic answers on this one. Any time I am writing or speaking, I do my best to share things I have personal knowledge of, have done myself, and I try not to speculate or “prescribe an answer” when I really don’t know much about the circumstances. The tips I shared above are what I do, they do work for me. I am always striving to learn more about myself and how to manage myself better and better all the time. If I make any major discoveries in the near future, I will be sure to share them.