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Recently, I had a horrible experience at near-by Starbucks. That doesn’t happen very often. My trips to Starbucks are usually wonderful. The people are friendly, they fix any issues you might have, etc. However, this trip was different…and honestly, a little weird.
My husband and I were on a date, a rarity since our baby was born, and decided to stop by at the end of the night. We were chitchatting as we pulled up to the drive-thru and, after about 5 minutes, we realized that no one had acknowledged that we were there. So, my husband very casually said hello. A girl got on, apologized, and asked if we could hold a second longer. No problem. We weren’t in any hurry.
She returns and we place our order. She repeats it back wrong. We tell her again. She repeats it back wrong…again. So, we correct the little bits she got wrong and she gets confused. At this point, we are mildly frustrated so my husband repeats the whole order for a third time. He was not rude and did not say anything inappropriate but he was very direct with his tone and deliberate with his words to make sure it was clear and pulled around.
We are the second car in line and we see her lean over to this guy and say something. He suddenly looks up at us and gives us the most hateful, disgusted look. We pull up to the window, the girl disappears, and this guy takes over. Being the type who likes to treat everyone in a friendly manner and, hopefully, fix whatever the problem is, I lean over, give him a big smile, and say hi. He looks at me like I am scum and thrusts our coffees out the window. My husband asks him which one is which and he doesn’t answer so my husband pulls down one of the sleeves to check. The guy asks him if they look right but, before we can answer, he rudely tells us to have a good night and walks away. We sat in shock for about 2 minutes.
Now, I am the type of person who hates conflict…especially conflict that seems to come out of nowhere. It sticks with me and causes me to become sad, stressed, and angry. The angrier I become, the more stressed out I become. In this situation, though, I applied a few things I have learned over the years to keep me stress-free, deal with the situation, and move on. And they worked well.
Here are 4 ways you can deal with conflict to avoid becoming overly angry and stressed:
- Step away to stay calm.The first thing I did was have my husband park. I was in shock, on the verge of tears, and getting angry. We hardly ever get to go out anymore and these people just ruined a very pleasant evening. If I decided to complain to management or face them in any way, I would need to be calmer or I would just get angrier when speaking with them and I firmly believe that neither side listens to the other when both sides get angry. So, we sat in the parking lot for about 5 minutes or so while I talked myself down.
- Breathe. A few deep, diaphragm-engaging breaths can do wonders for your blood pressure when you are feeling stressed. Seriously, if you can’t do anything else, take a step away and take a few deep breaths to regain your composure.
- Look beyond the surface situation.I have noticed that when I try to see the people I am angry with in a more intimate light, I feel less stress and pressure almost immediately. I don’t know them but perhaps they were having a bad night and they took our direct approach the wrong way. Maybe we showed up right after someone else WAS rude to them and our direct tone added to the irritation. It may not be right and it’s not an excuse but we’ve all been in situations where our emotions get the best of us.
- Don’t interrupt or argue.When engaging people in a situation like this, it is likely they will try to defend themselves or even get belligerent with you. If you argue with them you will likely feel your blood pressure rise and you will start to feel angrier. As I mentioned before, if both sides become angry, no one listens and nothing will be fixed.
After calming down, I walked in to face them and get a card for the manager (who was not there). The girl ran to the back and hid when I walked in and the guy wouldn’t make eye contact. I had to ask another employee for his name. I don’t think they expected me to complain. He became defensive and tried to excuse his behavior as having had a bad night. I listened, calmly told him that it was no excuse, that he ruined a rare date night for us, and that I wanted his name as well as the girl’s name. I did not argue with him and I did not say he ruined our night in a rude or abusive way. It was calm and matter-of-fact. He gave me their names and apologized.
As a last tip, if the conflict is in an establishment of some sort, don’t be afraid to get the manager even if you think the matter is small. Most managers want their stores to be the best they can be and they want to hear how they can improve even if it is small. Yes, you will run into a few managers who seem to side with their employees and don’t seem to care about the issues, but there are far more who do care then don’t.
I got in touch with the manager of that store through e-mail. I told him my story and he called me. He was amazing. I told him I hate to complain and I hate conflict but it was just such as weird, hostile experience that I really thought he ought to know. He appreciated the feedback and said he was planning on using my e-mail when he spoke with the two employees as well as use it as a training tool. Whether he did or not, I’m not sure, but he did seem sincere. He said he liked knowing about issues, even when they seem insignificant, because you can’t stay in business if you don’t give your customers a good experience. I really enjoyed speaking with him and it gave me a sense of closure allowing me to move on.
I am a firm believer that when you give into anger, you give up your power. So, when you find yourself in this type of situation, remember to:
- Step away to stay calm.
- Look beyond the surface situation.
- Don’t interrupt or argue.
And, of course, get a manager if the situation calls for it. These steps should help you face the conflict with a little more ease, find some peace, and, if you’re like me, help you move on.