Dealing with conflict is never easy. In fact, some people dread it so much that they’ll do anything to avoid it. A noble endeavor, but not always feasible (or the best option). As a freelance professional and entrepreneur, you can’t avoid conflict – often you’re the only person available to fix the situation!
When it comes time to dealing with a complaint, concern, or any type of issue (be it with a customer or employee), the most important thing to remember is to listen. Why?
- To get the full story…You may have heard rumors and you may think you know what’s going on, but chances are good that your interpretation of the situation is off. This is especially true if you’ve heard any gossip about the situation (which I recommend you ignore). You want to make sure you know exactly what happened, and you want to make sure you know how your customer or employee interpreted it.
- To show that you care…I once went to a job interview where the supervisor picked his fingernails and stared out the windows. I would answer his questions with extra information, then he’d ask me for the information I’d just given him. It was the first time I’d left an interview and not wanted a call back – if he didn’t care enough to listen through an interview, what kind of boss would he have been? Unfortunately people often handle conflict the same way. Don’t. Prove that you care – make eye contact, take notes, and stay engaged.
- To improve relations…Conflict doesn’t always have to end badly. Often times it can lead to improved customer and employee relations, as well as improved customer service, because you’re willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and (hopefully!) correct them as needed.
And now I’m going to give you the most important tip I can offer – I’m going to tell you how to listen. It seems simple enough, but there’s one key component that you need to remember. Before I give you the key, consider this scenario:
A customer contacts you with a complaint. Before you talk with that customer, you decide how to fix the situation. You know which solution you want to offer and how you want to implement it. While you’re talking with your customer, you’re thinking about when to present your solution and how he’ll receive it.
Do you see the problem? You’re not really listening. Sure, you’re having a conversation, but your mind is wandering. You haven’t given that customer the attention he deserves and is looking for. It’s time to pull out your listening key – mindfulness. What I mean by that is this:
Be mentally present. Don’t think. Don’t strategize. Just listen.
Remember, you might not yet have the full story. You need to make sure you understand the situation before you respond. That means giving your customers or employees your full attention, not just them time to discuss the situation. When you listen (instead of simply responding) you’re not only showing people that you care, you’re also showing that you’re willing to learn and improve yourself as a person and company. Who wouldn’t want to business with someone like that?
Did you find this information helpful? Sign up now to receive more business writing and entrepreneurial tips right in your inbox! And don’t forget to connect with me on Facebook!