It’s been said here before and I will repeat it continually.
Know your environment!
This doesn’t mean know where you are on the earth (if you’ve forgotten, knowing so may help) and it doesn’t just mean being able to label what’s happening where you are. It means have a good clue what’s going on rather than what you assume is going on.
Part of knowing your environment is knowing with whom you’re communicating. Knowing whether you are communicating with a five year old or Nobel laureate is helpful.
When dealing with a difficult customer, here’s something to look for to help you know who you are dealing with.
Are they are matcher or a mismatcher?
Do they tend to agree with what you say, as in do they tend to look for points of agreement, or do they tend to contend with what you say, do see the exceptions?
Pay attention to this because it can help you immensely when interacting with them.
What do I mean by matcher/mismatcher. First off, let me clear. I’m not looking to give you more labels to put on people, they rarely help, they actually keep you from knowing your environment. “Oh, you’re an X.” Is the first step in being completely blind to who and what you’re dealing with in a situation. A person IS NOT the label, the label clues you in to a potential pattern of behavior.
I’m sorry I feel it necessary to beat this point in, but people have a tendency to want to take a helpful tip and make it into a law of nature…they are not and doing so gets you in trouble. You have to keep your brain on all the time, you can’t check out because you’ve effectively “labeled” a difficult customer.
They tend to agree with what you’re saying initially. Their first expressed ideas tend to go along with the direction you’ve gone. They tend to stay within the mental play area you’ve set out. They will find similarities in their situation, experience, and imagination with what you’ve been expressing.
Part of this may be because they want to be liked and respected by you. Maybe that’s part of their personal culture they grew up with in their family. Perhaps it’s a bit of the wider culture – go along to get along. Or perhaps that’s just how they’ve trained their brain to work.
It doesn’t matter. Be aware of something…with you both agreeing you may miss things…big things because you are tending to see what works, what’s right, and what makes sense from the one perspective you both unintentionally are working.
Depending on their personality and people skills they can be interesting to annoying to work with. More self-aware and/or mature people know when finding fault, problems, and exceptions are helpful and when they are useless and/or damaging.
A mismatcher finds where what you’ve said won’t work. The first things they tend to express is the exception to the rule, the slight ambiguity in the definition you are using, the potentially false premise you are basing your point upon. They may say, “Well actually…” quite a bit.
A mismatcher seems to want accuracy, but more often then not they see their response as an opportunity to show how smart they are or that they are the smartest in the room (yep, I have a strong tendency to be a mismatcher).
When dealing with a mismatcher you may find discussions are bogged down in details and what ifs more than seems necessary. It feels as if the other person is trying to prove how dumb you are (not necessarily the case, they may, often do, have a strong need to show that they are smart…it’s a learned behavior, show others value through intelligence, it’s cheap and addictive), and this can deter effectively working together.
Working With Difficult Customers
Most likely the difficult customer is a mismatcher, strong mismatchers rub many people the wrong way (and they don’t realize it because their need to be been seen as intelligent is bordering on addiction or obsession…again, personal admission).
Realize with whom you’re dealing so you don’t get sucked into a pointless argument. Then be proactive (you can be proactive because you know your environment) by gently putting parameters around your questions.
“Okay, we need to see how this may work and may not work so we can better understand what we’re up against. First, how might this work and why would it be of value…”
“Okay now, how might it not work? Dave, I know you’re chomping at the bit on this, what do you got?”
See by setting things up from the beginning acknowledging both tendencies you keep things civil. Guaranteed to work. No. Just because you give parameters doesn’t mean anyone has to follow them, and people won’t, but you can gently guide things back if you need to.
Dealing with a matcher is a little different.
It may be that they want to be liked or accepted so they agree with everything that’s said. “Uh huh uh huh. That’s right. Yeah yeah.” These are strong signs.
Funny thing is, you have to do the same “tactic” to get them to think of how things might not work. Set parameters to think within. Note: it may take a minute for them to get into it. Their minds do not normally work this way. They can do it, but it requires a little bit of a reboot and then it takes a minute for the Brain OS to come back on line. Be patient. They’ll get into it.
There you go. Matchers and Mismatchers. Know who you are dealing with in your environment and you’ll give yourself a much better chance to survive and thrive.
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