Avoid Confrontation by Diffusing Arguments Before They Begin



Want to avoid confrontation and create better customer feedback and work relations? Here is some good advice, don’t engage in an argument in the first place. Instead, diffuse the situation before it escalates by agreeing with your adversary’s point of view.

Recently, while dining at a local seafood restaurant a customer came up to the owner to complain about an employee. We happened to be sitting at the bar when the argument ensued. The owner got defensive after a women told him there had been a credit card mix up and suggested he needed to fire his employee and waived her angry finger toward a clerk at the cash register. The owners took the position that his employee had been with him a long time and was probably just having a bad night. This of course could be construed as a logical response, however, to the customer it appeared as if the owner didn’t care. This resulted in a series of threats including posting disparaging comments on Yelp and so forth. After the women left I couldn’t help but comment to the owner.

Clearly she was upset and nothing was going to change her position. What could he have done differently? Change his response to something like, “I understand, thank you for letting me know. I appreciate your comments and I will speak with John. We take this matter very seriously.” Why this approach would work better: You diffused the situation by validating the other person’s concerns. At that point, the customer would have felt heard and had a positive experience instead of remembering both the employee credit card mix up and the owners’ perceived lack of concern.

Another thing you can do is offer a resolution that satisfies everyone’s needs. Example: “We both have had a busy night, may we offer you a free dessert on the house? If you can’t wait, I understand, catch me next time and we will make sure you are taken care of properly.” Most likely, he would have gained a customer for life by turning the situation around using this small recovery strategy. At the worst, he would have opened up a dialogue resulting in a compromise and possibly avoided a negative review on social media.

Diffusing an argument before it starts is a powerful recovery tool that can be used in a multitude of situations in your personal and professional life. Remember to diffuse an argument you must listen, agree, sympathize, offer a resolution and nine times out of ten everyone will walk away satisfied.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.