People are different. Some people fly off the handle when they’re put on hold for even ten seconds while others patiently wait 15-20 minutes as long as there’s nice music. I conducted training for a hospital once, where – at the break – two things happened; one person complained that the room was too hot, and another person went to their office to get a sweater because the room was too cold.
I don’t claim to understand everyone; what I think is irrational, unprofessional, or rude may be deemed appropriate behavior by others. What I consider to be a minor issue is a federal offense to others.
The lens through which I see the world is not the same as everyone else. And while the world’s a more interesting place because of that, those varied lenses can make delivering great customer service that much more difficult.
So even though we should “seek to understand,” sometimes we just can’t. In those cases, still be understanding of that human being on the phone, behind the e-mail, or facing you at that moment. Even if the complaint, the issue, the reaction, their body language or tone is so foreign to you that you can’t understand it or why it’s happening, still try to understand it’s a human being who’s being human.
This is why empathy is so important. You don’t have to “feel their pain” to convey you care about them as a person. You don’t have to understand WHY they’re frustrated to understand THAT they’re frustrated.
When you don’t understand, it’s okay. Know that despite all you don’t understand coming from that individual, sometimes the best thing is just to be understanding.