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Communication Tips: How To Manage Difficult Customers

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One of the most significant challenges in business is dealing with customers and in particular, why it is, that, wherever you go, difficult customers follow you.

The first question is, are your customers really being difficult? Is it them, or is it you? Let’s find out. In this article, we look at how to expertly turn around negative communication with customers, develop empathy and also hone your EQ (emotional quotient) to achieve win-win outcomes in business and life. You’ll particularly enjoy our section on EQ, but before we get to that, we start with a personal experience.

Looking back on my own experiences, it was working in my father’s store when I was young that taught me the fundamentals of excellent customer service. The face to face communication was at times unfavourable as I was a child, and there was nowhere to run to and hide when a customer I was dealing with showed frustration and became irate. It’s not hard to imagine a shop full of customers watching your every move and listening to your every word, and appreciating how impossible it is to respond appropriately in every situation. Often I got it wrong, but my experience in this store was the ideal training environment for the skills I acquired and still use today.

Not everyone has the opportunity to develop their EQ when they are young. Hence, it’s second nature when you’re faced with difficult people, so in this article, we look at how to grab the know-how and use it immediately as well as how to be more customer-centric, empathic and hone your EQ (emotional quotient).

So this leads us back to the first question, are your customers really being difficult? Or are you frustrated with your inability to communicate with them on your terms? There’s no win for the customer by intentionally being troublesome or unreasonable. Customers have needs so while the interaction with at times be challenging, it can be managed and turned into a win-win situation, so your business and your customer come out on top.

Understanding What You’re Dealing With – People

With 16 different personalities, according to Carl G. Jung, not everyone gets on all of the time. In fact, misunderstandings between people are normal; however, when there appears to be no way forward to reach an agreement, communicating can cause tension. What’s worse is when it’s not acknowledged and worked on, i.e. resolved, deeper emotional conditions can take hold in some people.

Emotions such as envy, greed, hate can motivate negative actions like shouting at shop assistants in a store or having outbursts on social media. If that action fails to attract the right response, then there is further escalation which if you are the leader of a powerful nation, it could lead to trade wars or worse still an actual war!

Dealing with difficult people is easier, with high EQ or emotional intelligence. We get our EQ naturally through our life experiences, and similar to your IQ, it can be developed with the training and practice.

According to there are five surefire ways to develop your IQ. Learn how to recognise patterns by learning new things that use the power of your brain. Work on math skills, do regular cardiovascular exercise, i.e. a minimum of 20 minutes a day. Play games that have levels, so you have to improve your score to progress.

Crosswords, puzzles and brain teasers also develop your IQ. To work on your EQ Inc. has some straightforward tips including practice active listening, avoid reacting off-the-cuff, instead choose to respond in your own time, get interested in developing empathy and focus on being self-aware yet remain approachable.

Active Listening

Most people have developed a knack for looking like they’re listening when most of the time they’re just waiting for their turn to speak. Work on improving your ‘active’ listening skill. A good way to check you’re doing it well is to paraphrase what you’ve heard when it’s your turn to respond. Also, take notice of what’s not being said but is being communicated through non-speaking cues, i.e. body language.

Avoid Reacting, Choose To Respond

Our lizard brain, aka dinosaur brain, is first to act, and the ‘fight or flight’ mode can get in the way of good communication. Your impulse will be to react prompted by strong emotion; however, you will work better with difficult people when you hold onto that thought or action and choose to how and when to respond. We all do it, react with a quick reply like an SMS message and afterwards regret it, but it’s too late we can not erase our message. This is where the delete button on the keyboard comes in handy. Use it as often as you want and ‘sleep on it’.

Responding after some time has passed and with clarity will get a better outcome for you and your customer.

Develop Empathy

Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Showing you understand another person’s viewpoint is smart and emotionally intelligent. Sympathy is showing pity for another person’s dire circumstance. Empathy is showing your respect and ability to understand where the person is coming from. i.e. their frame of reference.

Be Approachable

Are you the person strangers approach and ask for directions or your recommendations? Sometimes you may wish you could walk down the street without the attention; however, being approachable is part of having a high EQ. Being sociable and friendly will hone your EQ, and with every interaction, you’re using your communication skills. Be reflective, too, consider how you got on in the interaction. Mentally assess what worked and what needs improvement and look for the opportunity to do it differently in your next connection to get a better outcome.

Self Awareness

Getting stressed at times is unavoidable, however with self-awareness, you can work on removing it quickly. When you’re faced with a difficult customer, rather than ‘react’ to their stress, you can focus on your emotion and then work on relieving any growing tension within, with deep breathing.

Take some deep breathes, you’ll be amazed at how focusing on your inner calm, for a few seconds changes your emotional state and with a clear mind, you can get to work helping your customer also remove their stress so together you can reach an agreement.

Remember, practice makes perfect, and you’ll need to keep the focus on yourself and your own EQ development so you can be a better version of yourself for you and your business.

Self Discipline – Form A Practice Habit

To form a ‘practice’ habit, you’ll need self-discipline. To create a habit takes at least 15 days but it could take as long as nearly a year! Healthline says for a habit of becoming automatic it takes 66 days, so that’s the good news. Breaking a habit, however, it is not easy, and you’ll need to break your habits that conflict with your new habit of practice, so here’s how you can do it.

Create A Plan

When you know what you want to achieve create a plan. Your plan of action is your roadmap, and without you’ll fail to stay true to course. In your plan, create a list of what you want from being more in control of what you do, think and act. On your list include goals for your life, and business or career. Your goals are the driving force for change, and it will be this list that motivates you to be disciplined and commit to investing in time to form the practice habit.


A fully developed EQ will provide you with the means to manage how you communicate. A lot of business success is riding on customer interaction so set yourself up for dealing with challenging customer relationships.

For further reading on self-awareness and mind control has three mp3 audios on beginner to advanced ‘ride the wild horses’ meditations.

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