Credits (Images taken from flickr.com unless otherwise noted): Title slide: From Pasotraspasos photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasotraspaso/4752699101/sizes/z/in/photostream/Man Yelling at Phone: From RealEstateClienttReferral photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/realestateclientreferrals/4049366729/sizes/m/in/photostream/Mad as Hell: From Mike_Licht,_NotionsCapitol.coms photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/4943798948/sizes/z/in/photostream/ Gladiators: From Smiling_da-vincis photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/smiling_da_vinci/12656614/sizes/z/in/photostream/Wrestling: From Icanctus photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/icantcu/3528037094/sizes/z/in/photostream/Listening: From A_is_for_Apols photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/apol-photography/3458856098/sizes/z/in/photostream/Handshake: From Litandmores photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/litandmore/2465362185/sizes/z/in/photostream/Leaping Into Action: From Danorbits photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/danorbit/1814156778/sizes/z/in/photostream/Diving In: From Dude_crushs photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/haniamir/651043585/sizes/z/in/photostream/Mt. Fuji: From Jukka_Vuokkos photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jvuokko/2333404745/sizes/z/in/photostream/Security Guards: From Troy Holdens photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/troyholden/4036087411/sizes/z/in/photostream/Relaxed Child: From Barts photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bart_/907256885/sizes/z/in/photostream/Angry Woman: From Cambiodefractals photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambiodefractal/3541486151/sizes/z/in/photostream/Bored Man: From Uomoelettricos photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uomoelettrico/2585602948/sizes/z/in/photostream/Girl Smoking: From Ed Yourdons photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/2905906295/sizes/z/in/photostream/Woman with Crossed Arms: From DanielJames photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/revjim/144034933/sizes/z/in/photostream/Crossed Feet: From Hamed Sabers photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/849226969/sizes/z/in/photostream/Eye/Surprise: From Caro Walliss photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/carowallis1/219962169/sizes/z/in/photostream/Skeleton: From Powerhouse Museum Collections photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerhouse_museum/2980051095/sizes/z/in/photostream/Homeless Man in Prague: From Libers photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberato/2922275111/sizes/z/in/photostream/Book Stacks: From Rageforsts photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rageforst/217373926/sizes/z/in/photostream/Ill Call My Lawyer: From Jeremy Brooks photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/2473047860/sizes/z/in/photostream/Angry Mob: From Ambrowns photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dietpoison/296213187/sizes/z/in/photostream/Library of Congress: From Maveric2003s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/91198458/sizes/z/in/photostream/Gaming in the Library: From Bibliotheken Eemlands photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bibliothekeneemland/3400748365/sizes/z/in/photostream/
***Lets get personal.
Weve all been there. Weve all been that angry customer whose cable connection went down just before the big game started, and everyone at the cable companys help desk was off for the day, watching what we had hoped to watch. Or we who just found out that the state-of-the-art tech toy we just bought doesnt work with anything else we currently own, have ever owned, or ever plan to own. Or we just ripped open the package that arrived via UPS and have discovered that the item didnt come in the color we wanted, wont fit us unless we lose twenty pounds and stop breathing anytime we put it on, and cant be returned without paying a 20 percent restocking fee.We probably werent feeling particularly reasonable at that moment, were we? *Worse yet: in that moment of disappointment, anger, andtheres no denying itblood lust, our conflict resolution skills probably werent at their peak. We could probably feel our inner demons egging us on, reminding us that this was just another in an ongoing series of wrongs inflicted on us by faceless strangers who really couldnt care less about us. And if we really got on a tear, we felt as if this was the latest in a series of insults directed specifically at us and that if we didnt have immediately adopt that Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it anymore stance, we would never be able to face ourselves again.
*Lets start by attempting to take some of the emotion out of what is clearly an emotional situation. Step one is to acknowledge that maybe what appears to be personal really isnt. No matter how much that anger appears to be directed at us, were well on our way to dealing with someone elses anger by seeking a solution rather than becoming part of the problem.If we refuse to be drawn into the heated moment, were on our way to using some of the conflict resolution techniques we already knowthose things that, in our more calm and rational moments, we instinctively know how to do, but forget to try when were facing someone who appears to be difficult, has a reputation for being difficult, or just plain is difficult. It starts with remembering that whatever is making the person across from us angry probably isnt something we did or didnt do; the anger might just be the end result of a series of awful things that happened to the person that day before they even arrived in our library, and we were just unlucky enough to be there for the final thing that released that pent-up energy. *One thing to keep in mind is that we need to get past whatever blame is being laid at our feet. Again, its probably not anything we didand if it is something we did, we might start with a quick, sincere apology to cut through the problem were facing. Nothing defuses anger like an acknowledgement that there is cause for anger. Its generally pretty hard for someone to maintain anger when we refuse to respond with anger.If it isnt anything we did: so much the better. We have some great tools at our disposal, and we need to remember to use them to our advantage: we can listen; we can overtly acknowledge what were hearing so we re-establish the human contact that is broken in those awful moments of anger which are so familiar to all of us; we can respond in a way that makes us partners in solving the problem we are attempting to address collaboratively; and then we can listen again to see whether weve solved the problem or are any closer to solving the problem were facing.
*Listeningand working with every bit of talent we have for hearing what someone else is saying or trying to sayis a fabulous and often overlooked tool.
But lets be realistic: if we do nothing but listen , were eventually going to fill ourselves up with unresolved anger and eventually be as emotionally overwhelmed as the person were trying to work with. If, in the act of listening, we attempt to model the behavior were trying to inspirea sense of calmtheres hope that we might be headed toward a solution.
*We dont necessarily have to reach across our desk and grab the other persons handsalthough theres certainly nothing wrong with doing that if it feels safe and appropriatebut we do need to offer some sign of acknowledgement once weve finished listening to that unhappy person were facing. Again, the more we can do to bring things down to a human level, the more successful were going to be in diffusing whatever caused the initial conflict we faced so we can move back into what we do best: providing the sort of first-rate customer service which keeps people coming back to our libraries.
*The next obvious step is to actually take an action that is appropriate to the situation. We may not necessarily leap over tall book-filled stacks or fly across our computer centers or information commons, but the simple act of doing something substantial to help resolve whatever difficulty we can help resolve certainly is a step in the right direction to transforming a difficult library user into an ally who not only benefits from what we can provide, but will happily returnand, if were lucky, bring other great customers along.
*So, weve covered some of the easy stuff in talking about how we can benefit by putting ourselves into the shoes of that angry person were facing; in other words, working with empathy rather than mirroring the anger.
Weve suggested that if we can take the high road and not accept the anger as being personaleven if it feels extremely personalwe stand a good chance of being part of the solution rather than adding to the problem.
We have also looked at three wonderful resources we can use: our ability to listen at a meaningful level, our willingness to acknowledge what were hearing in a way that helps cut through the angry persons perception that no one is really listening and no one really cares, and our ability to take some sort of action that helps alleviate even a portion of what inspired the persons anger in the first place.
Since were firm believers in the power of applying what we learn as part of the learning process, lets open this up to discussion via the live chat function of the program. Lets hear from you about difficult people youve faced and how you helped create a positive resolution. Well turn our attention to the difficult ones you werent able to resolve a little later in this program.
*As we dive a little deeper into the challenges of resolving conflicts, its worth laying some additional groundwork.
Part of what were working with here is change management, and one of the most entertaining books to come along on the topic recently is Chip and Dan Heaths Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. The gist of the book is the suggestion that we can only do so much by trying to resolve problems and create change through rational, logical approaches. They maintain that change occurs when we appeal to emotions in easy-to-understand ways, and they also are firm believers in seeking small changes that are easy to grasp and implement. We can apply that to what were discussing today by suggesting that we dont have to scale Mt. Fuji to get where were trying to get; it might be enough to simply meet that angry customer at a rest stop near the foot of the mountain and spend a few minutes looking for the first easy step we can take together.
*A colleagueSandra Smith from Denver Publicis a big fan of the book Crucial Conversations. She has found it to be an extremely useful tool for the training program she manages, and it can offer us guidance as it explores those situations where we become wrapped up in situations where emotions are running strong. The writersKerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzlerlead us through a series of chapters and topics including the idea that we need to start from the heart, learn to look, find ways to make those conversations safe, speaking persuasively rather than abrasively, listening rather than blowing up, and turning the conversations into actions that produce results. If this sounds somewhat familiar, we havent lost you.*Its also worth remembering that much of what we say doesnt even come out of our mouths. Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent, has done a wonderful book that concentrates on how we communicate with body languageour stance, our gestures, our facial expressions, and much more. By incorporating photographs into the book, he gives us the sort of visceral learning experience that we can incorporate into our work with those we perceive to be difficultand, in the process, he gives us additional tools that offer the possibility of positive resolutions we might otherwise not achieve.*Lets take some images from Flickr one by one. What does the childs position and facial expression suggest?*What might your reaction be if you saw her approaching you?*If you saw this man sitting at a table in your library, how would his facial expression and posture make you feel?
Would your perception of him change if he were focusing that look on you while you were at a service desk?
*What does the smoking womans stance suggest to you?*If we zoom in a little closer using more images from Flickr, we become even more aware of how small details can provide large cues.
Lets start with this womans eyes, her hands, her mouth, and her general stance. Very suggestivenot threatening, but not relaxed. Theres a sense of surprise or apprehensive when we read the combined cues we are seeing.
*Then lets turn to the crossed feet. Theres a sense of being at ease here, just from the way the feet seem to be dangling in a casual pose.
*Then we turn to a wide-open eye. Surprise? Fear? If we saw that one approaching us, we might be a bit apprehensive ourselves as we began considering what sort of behavior was going to be expected from us.
*And finally, the skeleton. Notice the crossed legs, the position of the arm on the basin, the way the back and head are resting against the wall. Very relaxed. Perhaps a little too relaxed for our own comfort. Amazing what we perceive when we strip things down to their most basic level and make the snap decisions which can sometimes prepare us for those difficult and awkward moments we face in our workplace.
OK, that last one is admittedly a bit silly, but in humor we can make a point and, at the same time, find a useful tool to help us resolve difficult situations. Even with the skin and organs, the posture is extremely suggestive, and thats part of what we want to keep in mind as we continue thinking about what we notice consciously and unconsciously whe...