When someone complains about your product or service, how do you feel?
I don’t know about you, but when I get any sort of complaint I immediately feel defensive. I get a strange clutching feeling around my chest, my breath quickens and if I’m honest, I actually get a little scared. Then I immediately want to defend my company, my team or my product, or whatever it was that they were complaining about.
This is called the fight or flight mechanism, and it is hardwired into our systems. We cannot control it. But we can control the effects.
What do I mean?
Well, quite often our body has an emotional response, before the mind has had a minute to catch up. You know how it is: you have a reaction to something, you say things you don’t mean because you were angry, then once you have calmed down, your rational mind takes over, and you wish that you had said nothing at the time.
We all know that we should never react in anger, but yet we all do it.
Why? Probably because we are so used to being governed by our bodies, and not our minds, that we have not practiced the skill of controlling our impulses, so that we can judge with a rational mind when our bodies are calm.
When someone makes an “emotional” complaint, that seems tinged with anger or disapproval, it is usually because they are making it in the heat of the moment, without taking time to reflect and evaluate. What they are really saying is “I have this awful feeling in my body because something is not living up to my expectations, and I want to blame you to feel better”.
This complaint usually seems like it would be the most difficult to deal with, but actually it is the easiest.
Consider for a moment: when you are feeling wronged by someone and you feel strongly enough to bring it up with them, what do you want them to say? You want them so say, “I’m sorry and I understand how you’re feeling.” Often times as soon as they’ve said sorry, you feel immediately better and can see a more logical point of view.
When you are emotionally charged, you are not taking in data. No attempt at rationalising with an emotionally charged person will ever work, because you have not dealt with the emotion, before you give them the information needed to resolve the complaint.
Next time someone complains, consider whether the complaint is based in logic or in emotion.
If it’s based on an emotion, apologise and tell them you understand. You will gain their trust and respect.
If it’s based on logic and data, then examine ways to resolve the situation and move forward. You will gain their trust and respect.
Either way, you win.