This morning as I was listening to a Jimi Hendrix MP3, reading a couple of articles in The Business herald while waiting for my CRM to synchronise, I noticed a column from Seth Godin saying Angy People Are Different and there were some common threads and something missing.
None of them really had a good answer for how to deal with angry people. Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were sying F them in the Arse. This was a bootleg audio clip from a live show that a friend in France sent me. Not very productive.
There was a story in this morning’s NZ Business Herald (not on the net yet) by Neil Green talking about how GlaxoSmithKline spend most of their time justifying their position, even after being found guilty of exaggerating the amount of Vitamin C in Ribena. On their web site they have made some announcements about what they have changed and they haven’t done a bad job, but what they haven’t done is made a personal apology and made a human face.
Something I note all the time is that business and commerce is ultimately about people doing business with people and you should forget that at your peril. What amazes me is that the very people who learn from case studies in university (and Ribena is bound to be in one in the future) don’t remember their lessons when they get in the real world. Bad publicity is often an opportunity to put on a positive face and it is well known in the world of sales that the relationship with key clients is often far better after effectively managing a problem, than it was before the problem arose.
Debbie Mayo-Smith is one of the great imports to New Zealand and often speaks and writes about pitching to the emotion and reaffirms what all sales and marketing people have taught, but some have forgotten, haven’t I just said it. People do business with people. My relationship with all brands whose (note the last word) products I use is at a personal level. I use their products personally. If I find a pip in a tin of pipless peaches and contact the QA department of the manufacturer who listens, apologises and sends me some free product, I no longer talk about the pip, I talk about the genuine caring nature of the company who put things right. I trust them more than ever. The brand that says, shit happens, if we get 1 wrong in 10,000 products its good, get over yourself, I will stop using them because they don’t care and I am angry.
So back to Seth Godin. What I learned when studying Psychology and Negotiation was based around NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. If you try to soothe or calm the person who is angry, you are likely to upset them more because they will think you are being patronising. If you justify your position without acknowledging the other person’s position as Glaxo did, you will lose their trust as has happened in New Zealand with Ribena, where thousands of parents gave this product to their children thinking it was far superior to other fruit juice products on the market. They feel cheated and justifying your position just tells them that you feel you are superior to them.
In NLP they talk about pacing the person first. If they are talking in a loud angry voice, do the same. Get on their level. Show them that you empathise with them and would feel the same way in their shoes. A common mantra in negotiation is the 3 F’s of Feel, Felt, Found. I know how you feel, I had a similar experience to yours and what I actually found was……………….
The most important thing is sincerity in the use of this technique. People are adept at seeing through insincerity whether they are conscious of it or not. If you were genuinely wrong, admit it and do something about it.
Now if only Housing New Zealand could learn from this.