5 Strategies for Surviving That Difficult Call

June 23rd 2016

2 minutes read

5 Strategies for Surviving That Difficult Call
Written by LiveLink
June 23rd 2016
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Like death and taxes, unpleasant phone calls are an inevitable reality. In the working world, things go wrong and clients and colleagues will hold you to account. The first call after a mistake or a crisis is never pleasant, but you can take steps to defuse any ensuing conflict and keep the conversation productive.



The caller wants the problem to be fixed, but they probably want to be heard even more. At first, you should listen to their concerns, focusing less on how you can fix things than on their thoughts and reactions. This isn’t just appeasement — it can help you learn more about what went wrong and the possible effects.


Never interrupt.

You may be tempted to interrupt an angry rant or an unfair criticism, or to cut into the conversation with your brilliant new solution. This is the least productive reaction possible. Waiting to react gives you time to formulate your thoughts, and keeps you from further damaging a tricky situation.


Don’t argue or defend.

Even if you’re right, confrontational defensiveness accomplishes nothing. It may make the call you’ve been dreading even worse. Instead, focus on the caller’s complaints, validate their reactions, and assure them that you are working to find a solution.


Keep Calm.

No matter how difficult the caller or how seemingly insurmountable the problem, audible anger and anxiety will only exacerbate matters and make you more vulnerable. While keeping calm is ideal, if this is impossible, seeming calm will do. Speak slowly, breathe deeply, and focus on coherent responses, listening, and consideration.


Be incredibly polite.

Manners are key. If the caller is already frustrated or even furious, being snappish, sarcastic, or dismissive will only make them angrier. All good manners are an expression of respect, and consistent politeness and consideration will assure the caller that you understand their problems and are capable of fixing (or at least mitigating) them.


You can turn a problem into the start of a solution by listening to the caller’s concerns, resisting any temptation to interrupt, not getting defensive, staying calm, and being impeccably polite. Even more importantly, you shore up the foundations of mutual respect on which any relationship with a colleague, client, or customer should be based.

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