Have you ever wound up in a bad situation, and in that moment asked yourself, “How did I get here?” Whether this is in a relationship, a job, or traveling for that matter- it’s all the same. I am returning from a week in Italy with my daughter, and wrote a completely different blog on my flight yesterday (in my attempt to get back to Seattle) about my experiences of the week. That was until we arrived two hours late to JFK and everyone missed their connecting flights, (which were the last flights out for the evening). What has happened over the last 24 hours is why you are now reading THIS blog. While my training is as a “strategic intervention life coach” the principles below don’t just apply to dealing with situations when they have gone wrong and require intervention, these principles – when lived – will prevent things from going south in the first place. Whether you apply this to your relationships, customer service or your way of being, this will make your life immensely better. (It certainly would have for everyone at JFK last night.)
The Three Principles for Conflict Resolution or Conflict Avoidance
1. Listen – validate the other person’s feelings – that’s really all anyone wants-
Before we can have a discussion about what listening is, let’s talk about what it’s not; a need to be right, defending your point of view, thinking about your response from the moment someone starts talking, therefore, making it impossible to truly listen. In order to make someone feel that you are listening and that you actually care – make eye contact, give them your undivided attention, and validate what they feel without the need to correct them. I cannot more strongly state this – this is what ALL of us want; to be validated and to be heard. If you just do this and forget the rest, you will avoid many relationship problems that needlessly arise.
2. Ask what you can do, to make the situation better-
After you have listened, really listened to what someone says- instead of TELLING them what you will do about it, ASK what you can do to make things better. Ninety percent of the time, you gave them what they wanted just by being present and listening. If you’ve made that much effort, don’t blow it now by assuming you know what will remedy the situation.
3. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver- (relationship and customer retention suicide)
As well more than 100 of us gathered at the counter in Barcelona listening to why we had a 90 minute delay, the agent assured us that with our two hour layover in JFK we would all make our connecting flight. (That’s clearing customs, getting your bag in baggage claim, rechecking your bag and getting to your gate.) Which is why you would do what I did… I walked up to the agent and whispered, “We don’t have a chance in making our connection, do we?” He looked at me and whispered back, “Your chances are slim to none.” What strikes me, is why any of us ever promise something we know can’t be delivered. Now the obvious here is that he wouldn’t have to deal with this mob on the other side- which is true. But how many promises get made just because we think it’s what someone wants to hear? How many of us try to become what we think the other person wants- which inside, we know is not sustainable?
Intervention time- If either person becomes confrontational, it’s already over and done. Likely, at least one…if not all three of the above principles we’re ignored.
Back at JFK at the Delta Airlines ticket counter the next morning, a woman asked to speak to a supervisor regarding her treatment; suffice it to say there were issues with her hotel, the promise of food and getting seated in the back of the plane in a middle seat when she had paid a lot more for a premium seat on the flight that we all missed. The agent never even looked up from the screen the entire time the woman talked, finally asking, “Are you even listening to me?” (See step 1.) And of all of the options the agent had at this point, her choice was to respond, “Don’t you take an attitude with me.” Oh Delta Airlines, you couldn’t have reached your claimed number one in customer satisfaction with that!!! To sum up her experience (and most everyone else’s) – she wasn’t listened to, no one asked her what would help, and every promise was broken, and then the icing on the cake was being yelled at. All right out of the playbook called, “How to destroy a relationship and lose a customer for life.”
This is why if we are at the stage of intervention, a lot has already gone wrong. The good thing is, at any point you can stop and start over at step one. It’s just a lot easier when you don’t start at step four – confrontation.
In closing- I remember reading someone’s “best advice” they had been given; “Don’t fight the rain.” (Great advise for someone who lives in Seattle.) Once I heard we had a slim to none chance of making our connection, I knew my only option was hiring a private jet to Seattle. Now, if you had the chance to read my other blog about my time in Italy, (which was usurped for this one) you would know that the money spent on shopping, food and wine (not necessarily in the order) – extra cash for a jet was out. Again, don’t fight the rain folks, we’re in NY for the night. The rest of the chaos allowed me the opportunity to do what I love, stand back in fascination of why people do what they do.
The next time any situation starts to take a bad turn, check in on the breakdown or complete neglect for these principles – your solution likely resides in there somewhere.
With gratitude at 35,000 feet,