Wow! That customer looks stressed! Maybe it’s their body language or their expressions; they could be fidgety or talking really fast.
In the past, when we offered guidance in these situations, we focused on how to navigate the conversation step-by-step – what points to cover and what points to avoid.
But today, let’s be a little less prescriptive and just talk about some Guiding Principles when you’re engaging the other person:
Avoid the Absolutes – Conveying empathy is important in these situations. People seem to be less anxious when they feel like somebody is trying to understand them. However, it’s best to avoid statements that convey that you are certain about what they’re feeling, that you are certain about their situation: I know exactly how you feel. You are stressed. I know you’re nervous.
By using these statements, we’re making assumptions that they’re stressed about something. Sure, they appear that way, but we don’t want to state the assumption as a fact, since we could either be wrong or they may take offense if we tell them how they feel. Instead, use phraseology like: It seems…or I would understand if…or Situations like this can be…
Temper Your Tone – One way to bring nervousness down is to bring the volume down. Try to speak more softly. Yes, still use a bit of inflection to show interest but not so much inflection that it brings higher energy into the conversation. We’re trying to pull some of the energy and emotion out of the conversation.
Ease the Expressiveness – If you’re somebody who talks with their hands (like me!) or have lots of facial expressions, if you’re somebody who moves around a lot when they talk – these activities can keep the energy and the emotion in the conversation.
Slow your movements. Have more of a neutral, yet somewhat positive facial expression. Relax your shoulders and your arms, and provide a total focus on the other individual.
When the other person is stressed, we don’t want to do anything to create an even more stressful environment for them – or for us.
Avoid the Absolutes, Temper Your Tone, and Ease the Expressiveness.