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Ever had a customer lay into you? Ever had a manager  fume from the ears because his goals aren’t met? Have you ever walked into a situation where you feel everything is fine and dandy, only to be greeted with anger and frustration on the other side of the table?

Of course you have. We all have. It’s not the nature of business. It’s the nature of human interaction, of needs, of communication.

We all want to be heard. And when we feel we are not being heard, when our needs aren’t being met, we get angry. Anger causes panic. Anger causes confusion. Anger causes bad reviews and high turnover rates and dissatisfied customers and employees.

One of the first business lessons I learned was from the CEO of the organization I first worked at- there was an irate customer, and while my interpersonal communication skills were good, I hadn’t experienced that frustration on a professional level. The CEO calmly walked up with a smile, gently asked the customer to step aside and tell him her problem. Within three minutes her attitude went from red hot to jovial and boisterous. She even thanked him (HA!) for listening to her.

Afterward, he told me – “The best thing you can do when a customer is that angry is step aside for a private conversation, smile, and listen.” I don’t know if he understood how critical that advice would be in the foundation of my professional career (I haven’t seen or spoken with him in nearly a decade, which reminds me, I should email him), but it stuck.

And it works. Now, if somebody would only listen to me…