Peter spoke to me after a workshop and said:
“I work in a large public library. We have a few annoying customers. One of them is John and he comes in almost every day.
John tends to complain a lot and he also speaks very loudly. The other day he complained that the paper he wanted to read was already being looked at by someone else. Yesterday, he complained about two things. One was that we were being too noisy in our dealings with other customers.
I don’t think we were being too loud and I told him so. I also suggested that he might like to move to another table further away from the front desk. He declined but it didn’t stop him giving us ‘dirty looks’. He also said my co-worker, Jillian, was staring at him. I’m sure she wasn’t staring at him. But having said that, she probably glanced at him a few times times as it’s our job to look around the library and see if everything’s running smoothy.
The thing I’d really like to talk to John about tomorrow – I’m sure he’ll come in – is he speaks very loudly and it disturbs other customers. We’ve told him before about it. Sometimes other customers shoosh him but he takes no notice. He sometimes speaks to us from where he’s sitting without even bothering to come over to speak to us.
Mark, can you help us work out what to ay to john to get him to cooperate a bit more?”
One important thing in this scenario is that there are multiple violations of societal norms and of ‘library rules’. One of Mark’s rules for handling a tough conversation is that you should try to limit the conversation to just one issue. This makes it easier on you, easier for the other person to ‘get your point’ and more likely for the other person to ‘get on board’.
The FEWER® script, for example, is then used to produce a number of different scripts that can be used for the various issues that are inherent in this scenario. Then each one is turned into a Personalised Conversation Script. Here’s one as an example.
John, three times this morning you’ve come to the front desk and spoken to me.
(The customer’s name is used. A context is given.)
Each time, you spoke at a volume which made it difficult for other people to concentrate on their work.
(Only observable facts are used. The nature of John’s complaint is not mentioned because it’s not relevant and is likely to distract John. The unacceptable or unwanted behaviour is clearly and concisely stated. The problem is then stated simply; there are no harsh words.)
When you speak at that volume,
(The behaviour that’s a problem is stated again. Note that there are no expressions like: ‘when you speak too loud’, when you yell’, etc.)
it’s a problem for us because
(the word ‘because’ is essential)
it makes it difficult for me to do my job properly and can make it difficult for us to work together to help you.
(The problem is restated without being punitive. You let John know that you want to help them him.)
I understand that you believe that you have a legitimate complaint Suzanne was staring at you. We will discuss that issue shortly.
(You acknowledge their concern without agreeing. You let them know that you listened.)
What I want you to do in future is …