Q: I work as a sales manager in a technical field and am noticing customers becoming more demanding, impatient and quick to accuse us of...

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Q: I work as a sales manager in a technical field and am noticing customers becoming more demanding, impatient and quick to accuse us of mistakes. What ever happened to patience and “innocent until proven guilty”? My salespeople often feel like they’re walking on eggshells.

A: Many professionals are overworked, overwhelmed and underappreciated. Unfortunately, this chronic stress often gets expressed by blowing up at other professionals who provide services to them.

One of the simplest changes we can make to improve our effectiveness at work is to give others the benefit of the doubt before assuming malicious behavior.

Mistakes happen on and off the job. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes others will. Consider how you felt the last time you made a mistake and someone else was patient and generous, or gave you a second chance.

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Obviously, if someone repeatedly makes the same mistake, patience is not the answer, but very few mistakes do anything other than temporarily inconvenience us.

The ability to tolerate a moment of inconvenience is becoming rare. You make yourself stand out as mature, reasonable and delightful to work with when you don’t blow up at the small stuff. You’re also more likely to get the royal treatment next time you need something.

If your salespeople realize most professionals are simply starved for five seconds of comfort, perhaps they’ll take their customers’ touchiness less personally. Salespeople I’ve trained tell me the following formula works miracles on grouchy clients:

1) Paraphrase the client’s complaint. Offer empathy and comfort regarding any problems they’ve experienced. Don’t defend or explain.

2) Let the customer know that you are their ally within your company and that fixing the problem will happen faster if you both focus on what they need now.

The last word(s)

Q: I’d like to be promoted to senior management at my company, but these positions seem to require long hours, lots of travel and little time with family. Could I negotiate to maintain my current life balance and still get a promotion?

A: The higher you go in a corporation, the more personal sacrifice is usually required. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

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.