Q: I've tried to explain to an important customer that he misunderstood our policies when he hired my company. The customer won't admit...

Share story

Q:
I’ve tried to explain to an important customer that he misunderstood our policies when he hired my company.

The customer won’t admit he was wrong and is talking to my boss, and I’m in trouble. How did this end up my fault?

A:
Implying or telling people they’re “wrong” is right up there with telling them they’re “inadequate,” “bad” or “stupid.” Obviously, we can’t be human and not possess these weaknesses, but actually using the word “wrong” is the equivalent of declaring war.

As a communication consultant, I’m often called in when “fighting words” have been used. By the time I arrive, little work is getting done because the conflict is now about everyone’s wounded self-esteem.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

I always start these mediations by asking the parties what they had wanted. They often don’t know because now they’re focused on making the other person the bad guy.

Your customer is likely not upset about the fact that he “misunderstood” your policies. He’s upset that you think he’s wrong. You are now equally involved in proving yourself right, which means he’s really wrong.

To solve your dilemma, think outside the right/wrong box. Try imagining what outcome everybody might want. Your customer wants to use your service and get what he needs without being wrong.

Your boss wants you to make your customer happy and let your customer know what your company can do for him. You want to make your customer and your boss happy.

Nobody needs to be wrong. Try focusing on the present. Ask what your customer wants now and what you can do now. Don’t get into debates about what can’t be changed and who screwed up.

All you needed to do was take your customer’s requests to your boss for approval or denial.

In dealing with mistakes in the workplace, try to keep in mind that “to err is human.” Focusing on the goal rather than the error is divine.

The last word(s)

Q:
How do you maintain a work/life balance when you have kids?

A:
You often have to choose between a higher standard of living and time with your kids. Kids are a time-limited opportunity; work is not.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry,

no personal replies. To read other

Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube.