I was dealing with an issue at a non-profit organization where I volunteer, and the employees were in a disagreement about how to handle a situation. There was no shortage of opinions, and the rumor mill was rampant. Much of what was said behind the proverbial closed door was negative about “them,” whoever “them” was to the one speaking.
To begin to deal with the issue, we began to facilitate small group conversations. The goal was for people with differing opinions to talk out in the open with each other so – eventually – everyone would have a fuller understanding and some empathy for others. This would create the platform from which progress and decisions could be made.
I bring this up because the 5 core principles we used in the conversations could be applied to most significant issues you might have with an irate customer or co-worker. The acronym to remember is HOFAS:
- History – Get the facts of the situation, the background clear. Ensure that you’re starting the conversation with the same understanding.
- Opinions – Encourage people to offer their perspective. Try to avoid arguing with their opinions; remember that those are just opinions, not facts, and people are generally entitled to opinions.
- Feelings – Let them get the emotions out. If people can vent, they can usually blow off steam and begin to calm down.
- Alternatives – Identify potential next steps, sometimes soliciting their ideas for resolutions, and often trying to identify more than one solution in order to offer everyone choices and flexibility.
- Solutions – Determine which action to take, and which solution to pursue. Confirm what you all decided would be the next steps and timeframes.
You want to start these conversations by noting the 5 core principles and sharing that all comments should be provided in a manner that’s helpful and respectful. This reinforces the desired tone of the conversation and suggests that the discussion be about the issue, not the individual.
When dealing with the irate customer or co-worker, ensure the other person gets to talk. People want to be heard and to feel that they matter.
Have a HOFAS talk.