How Can I Be Nice?

“How can I be nice when people are so nasty?”  How often have you heard an employee say this or something like this?  It would seem this is one of the biggest challenges to managers trying to influence their people to deliver courtesy and kindness.  How do you get people to be nice when they’re getting yelled at?

The road to being Mr. or Ms. Sunshine isn’t the easiest thing but I believe it starts by considering what I like to call the Iceberg.  You see, the customer we see yelling at us is the tip of an iceberg, and, as we all know about icebergs, there is a big piece we cannot see. That piece we cannot see is all of the things that are part of their lives that preceded the encounter you’re having at the moment.  All of us have problems, challenges, worries and concerns that weigh on us and can cause us to blow up at what to others might seem minor.  A consideration of this reality is one of the best ways to make the challenge of angry or upset customers easier to swallow.

So what is a manger to do?  I suggest this exercise.  Get your team together with a few pads for writing and ask them to imagine the life of a customer.  Ask them to list all of the typical things their imaginary customer might have to deal with.  What is their morning like with getting kids off to school and then getting ready for work, sitting in traffic, getting yelled at by their boss for being a little late, etc.? Once they’ve got a pretty good scenario together, have them share these scenarios.  Then have them try to get into the mindset of this “customer,” have them become the customer so to speak.  Then demonstrate an indifferent employee attitude to them and ask them how they feel.  Discuss how iceberg of “life” changes things and magnifies the indifferent attitude.

This simple exercise can make it easier to understand and even have more compassion for people who get a bit out of control over something that would seem minor.  Perform this exercise periodically so that people don’t forget that there is more to people than what they see at the moment and some compassion can go a long way.

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