11:10am to 11:55am
Withthe changes in funding, students increasinglysee themselves as customers buying a service from the university, and
this sense of empowerment has ledto an increase inchallenging behaviour. In this sessionwe’ll be looking at the causes of
this behaviour inorder toget the right approach for minimising conflict, anddefusing it when it arises. We will be discuss ing
useful techniques to make your encounters as positive as possible for you and your customers.
♦ Brainstorm: hatred
♦ Discussion: why are they like that?
♦ Summaryof advocacy
♦ Discussion: best approach
♦ Summary: 4 ‘e’s
12:00pm to 12:45pm (GMT)
Everyone working for anacademic institutionnow has a more difficult jobthan they had five years ago, soit seems only fair
they should be giventechniques for coping with stress. Inthis sessionwe’ll be looking at the different types of stress, wi th
useful tools to minimise the impact of each of them. It isn’t always possible to stop or avoid difficult situations, but we have
some influence on how they affect us, and that is the focus of this workshop.
♦ Pair work: stressful situation
♦ Stress types: diagnosis
♦ Ruth anecdote: power of cognitive restructuring
♦ Presentation: 3 types, subcategories
♦ Pair work: application
♦ Discussionand examples
1. GENERAL APPROACH:
As statedearlier,the factthatbehaviourisunderstandable doesnotmake itacceptable oreven
forgiveable. Itdoes,however,giveussome cluesasto how bestto deal withit,whichI have
categorizedintothe ‘4E’s’ of dealingwithempoweredclientgroups:
Sympathetic Approach: Beingaware that customershave emotions,andsympathisingwith
and responding to these: keeping the encounter human. This may include reassurance for
people whoare panickyand distressed,andbeingsensitive towhatmood the customeris in
and adjusting your manner accordingly.
Thanking Them: Thanks cost nothing, and add to goodwill, so always thank people where
appropriate: for bringing something to your attention or letting you sort it out.
Active Listening: See more details on this later!
Patience: Language studentsneedlotsof patience:they’re undera lotof pressure,and it is
very stressful to always be communicating in a language which you’re only just learning.
Careful ofdignity: Itisveryeasyforstudentstofeelbelittledorinfantalised. Inyourlanguage
and tone, be aware of where you might be in danger of doing this.
BeingPositive: Alwaystryto give informationinthe positive:what can be done before what
Safety: Making sure the client feels as happy and relaxed as possible talking to you.
Ready to Apologise: Like thanks,apologiescostnothingandbuyyougoodwill,sobe readyto
apologise forbeingunclear(eventhoughyouknow it’sthe client’sfault!) orthat the system
cannot deliver the results they would prefer.
Taking Them Seriously: Even thoughsome of your customer’sconcerns may seemtrivial or
even ridiculous, they are important for the person who has them, and you should always
ExplainingConstraints and GivingReasons: ‘It’spolicy’isn’ta reason:there is a reasonwhy
thatpolicywasagreed. Alwayskeepcustomersintheknow aboutwhatthe rulesare andwhy
they are so.
Follow-up: Checkingyou’ve done whatyou’ve promised,orthat the customerhas delivered
ontheirside of things. Givethemachance tomake goodif they’vefailed:don’tjustwaituntil
a deadline has passed!
Prioritising: Customersare oftenflustered,andnotgoodat realisingwhatneedstobe done
first. You can help with this, taking charge of the encounter and prioritising.
Having Template Emails etc. ready: Not those dreadful ‘out of office’ things, but standard
friendly emails that let people know if there will be a delay.
Not Taking it Personally: Unless you’re getting far more difficult customers than your
colleagues, remember that it’s the situation the customer is upset with, not you!
FindingBestSolutionto Problem: Take time tofindthatyou’ve gotthe verybestsolutionfor
the customer: it gives you a clear conscience and saves time later.
Selling Referrals: If you have to send someone somewhere else, let them know why and
explainwhy it is in their interest. If possible, give a recommendation, or a contact person.
Setting RealisticExpectations: Making sure,in the nicestpossible way,thatthe clienthas a
clear idea of what is possible or likely.
Building Personal Relationship: Especially withagents, but it works well with students too.
Learn names, learn something about them: it helps greatly when there is a conflict, and
generally increases goodwill.
WillingtoNegotiate Where Possible: Customersshouldfeelyourorganisationisreasonable:
make sure theyknowwhere anegotiationispossible,andwhatthe constraintsuponthisare.
Informof Choices: All advice shouldbe giveninthe formof achoice:customersshouldnever
be treatedaschildrenandjust‘told’whatto do. Evenif it’sinthe form‘If youwant x youwill
have to do y’, it’s still a choice.
Cognitive Restructuring -
Guide to Techniques:
There are of course a huge range of cognitive restructuringtechniques,toomanytoinclude here,
but theyfall intothree maincategories:
Sometimesitcanhelptoshiftyourperspective,andchange the viewpointfromwhichyou’re seeing
- Seeingitfrom another’s point ofview: e.g.otherroad usersare notusuallyoutto get
youor make yourlife difficult:they’re justnotbeingasconsiderateastheycouldbe,or
doingtheirbest. Dad on road
- Not seeingyourselfasa victim: It’spossible tomake yourself unhappybycasting
yourself asthe victiminthe middle of yourownprivate drama:‘They’ve all letme down
rather than‘No-one’savailable’. Douglasrows
- Focus on a positive aspect: If a group of people are argumentativeandvocal,well,at
leastthey’re engagedwiththe topicandnotindifferenttoit. DaveBarry
- Time Perspective: Thisisthe ‘we’ll all laughaboutitlater’perspective. Xmas
- Rename it: ‘Challenging’customersare oftenjustassertive ones, ‘difficult’staff are
oftenstaff whohave a lotof ownershipof whatthey’re doing. Mucheasiertothink
aboutthemthisway! Empowered client group
All of these involvemovingyourmental ‘viewpoint’,usuallyawayfromyourself.
These techniquesare goodfordealingwiththe unexpected,orwithchangesinplans. Oftentheir
can be unexpectedbenefitstosuchchangesprovidedwe’rereadytoacceptthem, usingtechniques
- ReleasingExpectations: justbecause itisn’twhatyou plannedorexpected,doesn’t
meanit’sa bad thing,butit’seasyto feel like that. The fact yourfrienddidn’tgetyou
wantedforXmas doesn’tmeanwhatshe gotyou wasno good,or wasn’tthoughtful. In
fact it maybe more thoughtful thanthe usual tie she getsyou! Rita Rudner
- ReleasingControl: If youwere expectingtobe incontrol of a situationanditturnsout
that you’re not(forexample,stayingwithfriendsitturnsoutthey’ve organisedtripsfor
youwhichyou hadn’texpected),it’seasytofeel scaredorhelpless,justbecause you’re
not the one incontrol. Onthe other hand,youcouldaccept that otherpeople beingin
control mightdo justas gooda jobas you,if not betterforthisparticularthing:afterall,
theyknowthe area better,know what’sgoodtosee and soon. Recap Cultawa course
- Opento Opportunities: A change in planswill bringnew opportunities. Youmay have
preferredthe oldopportunities,andthe new onesmightnotbe as good,butyou mayas
well make the mostof the new possibilitiesthatthe change brings. Lesswork:plug
All of these involvelettinggoof something(expectations,control)andacceptingthe situationfor
whatit is,not forwhat youwouldhave itbe.
You can make yourself unhappybycomparingasituationwithsome (frequentlyunattainable) idea,
and moaningabouthowit doesn’tcome upto scratch, like complainingaboutbadweather. Oryou
coulduse comparisonina differentway.
- CountingBlessings: a bit of an old chestnutthis,butitoftenworks:how badlyoff are
you,really? Doyou still have yourhealth,friends,lovedones,aroof overyour head,
and can youallowyourself tofeel happyaboutthat? Or are you goingto be miserable
eventhoughyouhave all these things,because youdidn’twinthe lottery?
- At least it’snot worse: Or youcouldcompare downwardsinsteadof upwards. If you’re
havinga busyday,at leastit’snotone of those seeminglyendlessoneswhere youdo
nothingandfeel knackeredatthe endof it. Spencer:first world problems.
- Comparing WithOthers: But choose yourotherswithcare! Someone once said,‘Never
readybeautymagazines:theywillonlymake youfeelugly’,somake sure youmake a
faircomparisonwithhowthe majorityof people are managing. German
- Comparing Earlier: I wishIwas the weightwhenIfirststartedsaying‘youknow,Ireally
needtolose weight’! Oftenitcanhelptocompare you currentsituationwithearlier
ones,where youmayhave longedtobe in the situationyouare now in. Agent