Effectively fighting fire with fire

Last week I wrote about how a technical stuff up meant that I was without a mobile for most of the week.  I spent most of the week hanging out in their store waiting for answers.  These answers weren’t always what I wanted.  My experience taught me a lot about patience and the importance of effective communication skills.fighting fireI did worry that maybe my lack of reaction was another symptom of my depression and exhaustion.  I was so used to the rage bubbling up and spilling over the top that this reaction was so foreign to me.  It didn’t occur to me that maybe this was an OK reaction, that I didn’t always have to fight fire with with a raging inferno.

In therapy over the last 6 or so months I have been working on interpersonal effectiveness as part of DBT.  In short, it’s learning how to positively interact with the people around us.  These skills help to learn ways to effectively get our point across and get the things that we need, without trampling the needs and wants of the person we are talking to.

My interpersonal skills have not always been the best.  I compartmentalise easily and often find it easier to completely cut contact with someone than to work out an issue.  Of course there are always cases where cutting contact is the best course of action, but I was using it as my only course.

However my skills have slowly been improving.  I am learning that it’s OK to have a disagreement with someone and still be friends with them.  I am learning to preserve the relationship rather than destroy it.  I am learning that there are times when fire needs to be fought with fire.

The situation with my mobile posed a lot of difficulties for me.  The situation wasn’t changing, and I felt out of control.  There wasn’t a thing that I could do and simply had to trust in the employees and the information that they were giving me.  There were protocols in place that I didn’t understand or that seemed hell bent on making a situation worse.

During the many trips to the store it would have been easy for me to blow up, to release my frustration on the person that I was speaking to.  However the work that I have done in therapy helped me to recognise that this was a time when keeping my cool was important.  Yelling at an employee who couldn’t do more than they were already wouldn’t help my situation.

It’s human nature to meet aggression with aggression.  Think about the last time that someone approached you angrily.  What was your initial reaction?  Did it make you want to yell back at them?  It’s that reaction that was at the forefront of my mind when I was talking to the store employees.

I  knew that I was much more likely to have a positive customer experience if I made my frustrations heard while still remaining calm.  I knew that I was more likely to be taken seriously if I could interact with them in a calm way.  I also realised that getting angry was OK but it was not OK to behave negatively while experiencing that anger.

At the end of the week I did fall in an exhausted heap.  I cried with frustration on Friday night.  I was emotionally spent.  However I knew that I would have felt worse if I had let the rage spill over.  I was glad that at the end of the week I could look at my actions and feel good about myself.

How are your interpersonal skills?

Have you had an experience recently where you surprised yourself with your reaction?

Linking up with Jess for IBOT!

10 thoughts on “Effectively fighting fire with fire

  1. Renee Wilson

    Good on you, Tegan. This is huge. We all know how frustrating telecommunication companies can be. Plus we’re all so attached to our phones that it’s a huge deal to some of us to be without one. Good on you for remaining calm and letting the people do their job. It sounds like you’ve made massive progress with your interpersonal skills. You should be proud. I like to think I have fairly good interpersonal skills, but you did remind me of an argument I had with Telstra which went on for a year when they were charging me for phone calls that weren’t mine. I screamed at them that I was going to call Today Tonight. Haha. Fat lot of good that did me.

  2. Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    Go you!
    I’ve always found that if I act calmly yet firmly with a sense of knowing that the person I’m interacting with will be able to fix the problem, that they they usually do. (If I think that they’re idiots and won’t be able to resolve it, then no matter what they do, I’m not happy.)
    Having said that, phone companies are some of the worst companies I have ever had to deal with. If any industry can make your blood boil, it’s the telecommunications industry. Why is that? Why are they so damned frustrating? My dad almost had the police called on him over one phone company interaction (yeah, he was fighting fire with a raging inferno).

  3. Lydia C. Lee

    Good for you – it’s not easy dealing with Telcos – they are very circular in their processes. And good for you for mastering a new mode of operating. That’s huge. I probably need bit of that…

  4. Amy @ handbagmafia

    Good on you! This sounds like progress which is great. We are under some financial pressure at the moment and I’m coping better than I thought, staying positive etc. but I think it’s manifesting in poor sleep. Can’t win, sometimes!

  5. Vanessa

    I don’t get angry at the staff when things go wrong, but I do research the person in head office or a complaints officer and notify them. Or, like when ANZ fucked up so badly for me and blamed it on me, I blog it because no one would help me.
    In talking to a head office or similar, I really hope that people take the chance to learn and improve processes, but I also know how change-resistant many organisations are, so I don’t hold out hope, sadly.

  6. Emily

    Wow. Good on you. And great question. If I’m approached aggressively, I certainly get my back up. Before I even know what the issue is. But usually I hold that reaction back, because you’re right. You’re more likely to have a positive customer service experience if you’re calm about it. #teamIBOT

  7. Jodi Gibson

    Well done Tegan! As you say, even though you were emotionally spent at the end of the week, the result would have been a lot worse hadn’t you not been about to think rationally about the situation. We’re all a work in progress, and you’re doing damn fine.

  8. EssentiallyJess

    This was awesome to read Tegan. I think all of us would want to react in anger when it came to phone issues (I would not be happy), but I love that you were able to remain calm. I’m not sure how I would have gone after several days of frustrating answers.

  9. Janet aka Middle Aged Mama

    Tegan I am almost the opposite. I am such a scaredy cat when it comes to conflict that I put up with a lot, it is really hard for me to put on my assertive or even aggressive pants and fight for my rights. I know aggressive shouldn’t be necessary, but the reality is that things magically do seem to happen when I have a tanty!!!!

  10. Lara at This Charming Mum

    Restraint is so much more tiring than being able to let fly when you’re angry or frustrated! I am really impressed by your self-awareness and control under pressure. I could do with applying this sort of rational reaction to my interactions with the kids some days. I’m usually pretty controlled when it comes to shop assistants etc, but in the comfort of my own home I am far more reactionary. Well done.


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