• Sweet Ways to Engage Savory Clients

    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE

    Understanding what drives you and how others are driven helps avoid unnecessary conflicts in the first place.

After 30 years in this very customer-service focused career. I’ve had numerous difficult situations arise. Through a multitude of professional and personal experiences, I have stumbled upon a passion for researching how to appreciate uniqueness in humans, understand authentic relationships and create community and teams that thrive. This interest has led me to get certifications in DiSC and the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. 

In terms of engaging in more positive relationships and interactions, there are three ways to improve how we deal with conflicts. 


OK, so you screwed up and have an angry client. The first thing to understand is that you are not alone. We all mess up and you will not die, go out of business or have to wear a scarlet letter around for the rest of your life. 

Get out of BED: blame, excuses, denial. No one wants to hear how it wasn’t your fault, the truck had issues or it wasn’t as bad as expected. Stop and grab an OAR (ownership, accountability, responsibility) and start rowing. 

Be real and vulnerable. If you can be strong enough to be vulnerable and authentic, guess what? Clients know you are human, and now they can relate to you. The best thing about admitting your mistakes and apologizing for your part in the problem is it ends most conflicts. As soon as you can authentically put yourself in a client’s shoes, empathize with what your error has caused and be truly sorry it happened, you are 90 percent closer to moving forward from the issue. 


Get to know yourself and understand that just because others do life differently doesn’t mean either of you are wrong, again just different. The thing I love about DiSC is how complex it is and yet how simple it is to understand: Dominant, influencer, Steadiness and Conscientious. I suggest taking the assessment as it gives you a wealth of information as everyone falls into multiple areas on the DiSC map. Basically, each style prioritizes energy differently toward eight priorities: results, action, enthusiasm, collaboration, support, stability, accuracy and challenge. If your priority is action while your client’s is collaboration and you are running around getting things done, but she just wants to talk it out and get everyone’s input, there may be a problem. 


While we are diving in and getting to know ourselves a bit better, let’s look at how we are sabotaging the situation when there is conflict with a client or anyone else for that matter. The first step here is being aware that we can be unhealthy as our thoughts create our behaviors. For example, the client isn’t thrilled with the main course served at a seated dinner. We hear the complaint and create stories in our heads. You might say, “OMG my career is over! This is the most important event, I will never work again and my kids will starve.” Or we might say, “She is so picky and overly dramatic; I can never please her.” 

Both are stories you made up, and neither are truly the facts. However, you see how the story you just made up is going to affect what happens next and how you will behave. Stop, take a breath and tell yourself the facts before you move. Here is a three-part assessment for healthy and unhealthy behaviors in conflict. 

Conflict » Think of a conflict situation that you wish had been handled better and describe it.

Response » What were the automatic thoughts you had during the conflict situation? What was your response?

Reframing » What could you have done to redirect or adjust your automatic thoughts? Could you have responded differently?

After 30 years of dealing with some hairy situations, I have learned a couple of things. The only thing you can really change is how you deal with situations. You cannot change anyone else, so how will you keep your side of the street as clean as possible?

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