The first time I learned about the idea of “killing with kindness” was when I read Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For those of you who haven’t read the story it’s about a man who meets an angry, rude, disrespectful woman. He continues to be kind to her no matter how badly she treats him, and soon enough her anger melts away because no matter how hard she tries, nothing she does provokes him. And they lived happily ever after.
Have you ever tried doing this? It’s funny how well it actually works. I have had TONS of opportunities because I’m a customer service rep part-time. I am the one the angry customer unleashes on. The one who takes the punch, gets back up, finds her balance, and then braces herself for the next jab.
For a long time I would take things personally. I would want to yell back, cry, defend myself. But then I would only fuel their anger even more. And worse, risk losing my job. I hated feeling so defeated all the time. I needed to grow thicker skin.
Instead, I just learned how to change my perspective. I’ve learned a few things:
- I am not the one they’re mad at
- I am most likely the tenth person they’ve had to explain their issue to
- They don’t feel like they can trust yet another sales rep to resolve their issue
- They have had an awful experience and FINALLY can tell someone face to face how pissed they are about it
- The louder they yell, the calmer I need to be
- The angrier they are, the more pleasant I must be
- And even though what happened isn’t my fault, I need to apologize like it is
In a nutshell, don’t get mad get even nicer. It sounds like I’m telling you to be a doormat when people are rude to you, but I’m not. Instead, be a marshmallow. Let the anger bounce off of you, but continue to be kind…sweet, that niceness is what will bounce back and slap them in the face, not your anger. And they won’t know what to do with it.
They’ll be so confused by your reaction of niceness that their rage literally melts away. Their behaviour goes from rude or obnoxious to quiet and reserved. How can they justify continuing to be angry and rude to someone who is so darn nice? That would put them in the wrong, and suddenly they’re the bad guy. And who wants to be the bad guy?
You don’t have to be in customer service to run into rude people either. They’re everywhere. On the highway, at the mall, in the parking lot, coffee shop. Whenever I run into someone who’s obviously angry, I remind myself that I have no idea what their life is like and what struggles they’re facing. Of course, that doesn’t give them a license to be rude, but they’re just easily triggered by obstacles throughout their day and the anger just spills out of them.
I know they saw my signal on to get into a parking spot but they took it anyway. They saw me walking right behind them with a toddler in my arms and rushed into the elevator before I could and didn’t hold the “door open” button. In both cases, I make sure to make eye contact with the individual, smile and say “Hi”. I don’t give them the reaction they expect. Perhaps it makes the path for the next person they run into that day a little less bumpy.