They are there, lurking: difficult interactions just waiting to happen. In today’s business world we are faced with a myriad of situations daily. Competition is fierce. Pressure is at an all-time high. Patience is often short.

Arm yourself with some key strategies to make navigating difficult interactions a little easier. Here are the top 12 strategies:

1. Choose your words carefully.

There are some hot button words that can stall an interaction or, worse, escalate it to a heightened emotional state. Words such as no, can’t, won’t, don’t, shouldn’t, and should have are all hot button words. Invite yourself to minimize use of these words. Find more positive expressions, such as yes, what is possible is..., what I can do is..., I will do my very best...

2. Allow your tone to match the intention of your message.

Tone communicates 38% of the impact of face-to-face messages. Your tone, whether face to face or on voice mail can make or break an interaction. Choose to have your tone pleasant and positive.

3. Observe your own body language.

Are your non-verbals in alignment with the message you are trying to deliver?

4. Make use of proper body language.

These key components of body language are critical to the smooth delivery and receipt of the message:

- Eye contact
- Facial expressions
- Positioning of arms and hands
- Gestures
- Posture
- Standing or sitting body focus
- Positioning of feet
- Distance from the other person
- Ease of movement

5. What is fact and what is filter in the communication and message?

Filters are clearly not fact; they are created views in your mind based on your own history.

Focus on the facts and allow filter to be just that... filters.

6. Acknowledge that the other person brings their baggage and you bring yours.

Sometimes these pieces of luggage are tiny and quite invisible; other times they are difficult to lug through the door.

7. Be aware of the expectation and perception of the other person.

Customers have expectations about the product and/or service they will be receiving and the interactions that will occur with the customer service provider.

Customers have perceptions about the product/service that they are receiving.

The key question to ask yourself is: What does your customer expect of your product/service and of you? The more you can tune in to that, the easier even the most difficult interactions will be.

8. Be positive and future focused.

Choose your attitude. A negative attitude creates negative energy which can create negative interactions. Choose to be positive in your interactions, especially when the interactions are negative.

Focusing on history keeps us from moving forward. Inviting interactions to be in the present moment or future expands possibilities in problem solving. It is also much less stressful!

9. Ask questions.

Ask first, tell next. This means listen to the other person before trying to solve the problem, place blame, rebut or interrupt. Asking questions is beneficial for the following:

- Clarifying understanding
- Drawing out a quiet talker
- Creating rapport and relationship building
- Getting attention
- Avoiding misunderstandings
- Gaining scope
- Stimulating conversation
- Learning new information
- Expressing interest in the other person

10. Don’t take it personally!

You likely deal in a high-stress environment. Time sensitivity brings its own stress. Remember you may be the target, but may not be the source. Let it go.

11. Take a time out if you need to!

This is an incredibly underused tool. When you feel you are saturated or not fully able to engage in that moment take a time out. Go somewhere briefly and think through the situation or just take time to breathe. Then re-engage when you are ready.

12. Actively listen.

Statistically, our listening capability is an average of 300 words per minute. The maximum is 800 words a minute. Our retention level is only 25% of what is heard. Practice listening and increase your retention!

To implement these strategies, choose one a week. Focus on the approach and allow yourself to use it throughout the week. Look for opportunities to use the approach and even share it with others.

Throughout your journey remember to honour who you are in communications. Speak your voice in a very positive way and watch difficult interactions become much more positive.

About the author

Anne Rose is a WATMEC facilitator, certified coach, and author. From a young age, Anne has dedicated her life to helping others find their charge and define their destiny. To unearth their inner self, find their true voice and create authentic communication, and become inspiring leaders.

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