Monthly Archives: July 2011

Be Non-Confrontational or Assertive?

There are times we must speak and tread softly, and I am a big believer in being non-confrontational most of the time. But what I find is that some people are so concerned with being non-confrontational that they lose their assertiveness. That is not so good for their self-esteem, or their relationships with co-workers, family and friends. Often times it invites others to treat you like a doormat. Please don’t get in the habit of avoiding all conflict just for the sake of ‘avoiding conflict’.  We sometimes need to be assertive, without actually being aggressive.  I have an ebook and a coaching program that can help you make the difference.  🙂


Recovering from a Bad First Impression

Have you ever met someone new at a dinner party, networking function, or a dating event, and they rubbed you the wrong way immediately?  Something they said or did, or they way they spoke or acted, just really turned you off?   Sure, we all have had that experience.
Now let me ask you, do you think the person was truly aware of their negative vibe at the time?  Probably not right?  They probably did not try to upset you on purpose, right?  So if you didn’t tell them afterwards of their bad first impression, then they may never know how they came off, and may even think they made a good impression with you!  They may be a bit confused the next time they see you as to why you are running in the opposite direction! 
My next question is – could this be you?  Is it possible that you accidentally gave an unintended negative first impression with a new co-worker, friend of a friend, or even on a date?  Sure it is.  Now what can be done?
Here are some quick steps to take to recover from a bad first impression, assuming you were made aware of it afterwards.
1 – Evaluate feedback rationally.  Who told you that your first impression was negative?  Was it the principle person, friend or observer?  Consider the source before you condemn yourself.  However if you trust the source, or it comes from the principles’ own mouth, then it is time to move to step two.
2 – Self-evaluate.  Ask yourself what impression were you trying to make, and what went wrong?  Was this a misunderstanding?  Do you do this same thing with other people as well?  Is it time you stopped making excuses for this annoying behaviour and accepted that it needs to be changed?  Write things down to be clear and focused.
3 – Contact.  Send an email or if you are brave enough, a call or face-to-face meeting with your accidental victim.  Acknowledge your specific flaw or quirk and explain that that is not normally how you act, or at least explain that there is more to you than just what they saw that evening, and you would like a second chance to show them the real you.  You are not apologizing for your personality, but you can let someone know that you are aware of your bad first impression, and want to show a more rounded personality instead of just what was revealed during the first meeting.  Most people can really appreciate the bravery and humbleness it takes to do this. 
4 – Modify.  Did you dominate the conversation last time?  Well, next time take a break, ask some questions and listen.  Were you so shy and quiet last time that the person thought you were bored or uninterested?  Then next time you need to be engaged, make lots of eye contact, use active listening skills, and show enthusiasm.  Did the last meeting sound like an interview to the person?  Okay, time to lighten up, stick to general topics for now, and give the person time to open up.  I am not suggesting you act completely the opposite, but try to modify yourself and take steps in the right direction to be more balanced.  This will improve your conversational dynamics.
5 – Try your best.  Continue to try to be aware of your own first impressions, and modify when appropriate.  But also accept the fact that not everyone will like you or get along with you, as there are different personalities out there.  The point is that people do not have to love you, but they should at least feel comfortable with you on a first meeting.
After doing a self-assessment, if you think you need to improve your “art of small talk and winning first impressions”, you may find my customized coaching program helpful.  🙂
Here’s to your confident communications! 

The Customer is NOT Always Right

A while ago I attended a seminar in Toronto where the presenter talked about the value of good customer service in all types of industries.  He actually has a background in the restaurant and hospitality industries, so as you can imagine there was a lot of discussion about good and bas service at restaurants, and how to handle complaining customers, even if you are sure they are ‘scamming’ you for free-bees.  His solution was across-the-board give in and put out.  Give in to their complaints and give them complimentary food, coupons, etc.  I have to admit my stomach was unsettled.
Many of us have heard the mantra “The customer is always right.”  But my question is, what type of message are we, as a worker, a manager, a company or a society giving when we give in 100% to fraudsters?  Does that very act not devalue our company?  Does it not encourage people to continue to shout loudly for free stuff?  And how do you think your company waitresses, clerks, phone operators etc. feel when they are told they must accept the abuse?
Years ago when I worked for Copelco Capital, a global financial company later taken over by Citibank, I had the dubious honour of working both customer service AND collections!  So my phone calls were often dealing with angry or complaining clients.  I developed some pretty cool conflict management techniques, which I can share with you another time.  But for today I want to tell you about the time a client called and was complaining loudly, swearing, and not listening to my calm appeals to slow down, and to dignify her language. 
I advised her to stop swearing, and when she didn’t stop, and wouldn’t listen to a word I was saying, I simply hung up on her!  Yes, you heard me, I disconnected the call.
She called the company back, asked for my manager and began to complain about my actions.  My manager told her she would investigate promptly, put the client on hold and came over to my cubicle (p.s. I do NOT miss cubicles) to ask me why I had hung up on her.  I explained that the client would not calm down and refused to heed my warning about her foul language, so I disconnected the call.
My manager said okay, returned to her desk, took the client off hold, and said “yes the reason why Ric hung up on you is that we do not tolerate aggressive or abusive language here.”
The client was dumb-founded for about 5 seconds, and then immediately began apologizing for her previous behaviour.   My manager went on to help her get the problem sorted out peacefully, which any one of us in the customer service department could have done had the client been calmer in the first place. 
I did not get a lecture or any punishment.  It was understood the company would protect its staff from abuse.  I was very proud of my manager that day.