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Communicating with people who are panicking

25 November 2020 17337 Views
Communicating with people who are panicking

Moving home is emotionally fraught. Buyers and sellers will get upset and unfortunately some people will take it out on you. In this kind of situation, it is easy to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode which can hinder your ability to think clearly and keep your emotions in check. Here’s a few tips for clearing the way for a productive discussion and managing a stressful situation successfully.

Don’t put it off

If you know you have to give a client bad news, don’t keep putting it off.  Delay will make you increasingly anxious and your client will be stressed because they’re impatient for an update.

Keep calm

Try and keep calm and don’t be afraid to slow down the pace of the conversation by taking a deep breath before you speak.  Control the tone of your voice to avoid the high pitch that so many of us find ourselves using, when we’re agitated.  Appearing to be calm, yourself, will help to de-escalate the level of stress and it will reassure your client that you have everything under control.  Deep breathing is also one of the best ways to lower your stress levels.

Put space between you and your emotions

To avoid feeling overwhelmed or over-emotional,  Susan David, author of Emotional Agility suggests separating out and labelling your emotions so you can let go of them and keep a clear head; “the attention you give your thoughts and feelings crowds your mind”.

Listen to your client and let them talk

When we are dealing with someone who is stressed, unhappy or angry, many of us are naturally inclined to try and provide a solution as quickly as possible. Our desire to provide a response can affect our ability to listen and it can mean that we cut the other person off mid-conversation.  Let your client talk until they fall silent.  Then reassure them that you’ve listened to everything they’ve said and ask them if there’s anything else they want to raise. If you need to ask questions, avoid firing off one question after another which can make it feel like an interrogation.

Demonstrate that you’ve listened

When your client has stopped talking, play back a brief summary of what they’ve said.  This lets you confirm that you’ve understood their concerns and it will buy you a little time to work out a solution. For many people, just knowing that someone is listening to us, when we’re worried, is enough to reduce stress. 

Pick up on anything positive they’ve said

If, for example, they’ve started the conversation with ‘We’re happy that such and such a thing has happened;’ play that back to them throughout the conversation. It will help to highlight the positive and detract from the negative.

Invite your Client to join the team

This is a simple way of highlighting that you’re both on the same side and can help to ensure that your client see you as a ‘friend’ rather than an ‘enemy.’  Use phrases like ‘we’re here for you; how are we going to solve this problem by working together?’

What are you are going doing to help them?

If there is something you can do to help, explain what you will do as clearly and simply as possible.  Heightened stress levels reduce our ability to absorb information so don’t hit your client with a big long list.  Simply say – ‘I will do this, by this date and this will help with this.’  Be honest, never tell your client that you can do something you can’t do and don’t oversell the impact of what you’re going to do.  

What do you need your client to do?

Be clear, be concise and keep it simple.  Don’t give them more than three things to do and tell them each action you need them to take, three times – once during the course of the conversation; once to summarise at the end of the call and once, via an email after the call has ended.  

Timing is everything

If you have to call a client back try to avoid times when you know they are likely to be busy, for example during the school run or, for many people, first thing in the morning.  If you ring a client and they’re clearly distracted, ask them when they’d like you to call back or ask them if they’d prefer an email.  If you can, confirm at the start of the relationship how often they want to be communicated with and by what means e.g. email; text or phone call.

Keep them updated

If you tell your client that you are going to do something by a specific date, make sure it’s done by that date. If it can’t be completed in time update your client to let them know you’re still working on it.

Don’t take it personally

If you’ve had a very stressful conversation with a client, take some time out after the conversation; even if it’s just 60 seconds to take a few deep breaths.  Remind yourself that you are doing your best.  Celebrate the positive things that happen each day rather than dwelling on the negative and try and find a positive way to channel negative energy e.g. going out for a walk; treating yourself to a reward or spending 5 extra minutes on a work task that you really enjoy doing.

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