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handling difficult situations

Recognize that there may be a problem from providing feedback.
Be aware of verbal and nonverbal cues. Others in the immediate area may appear uncomfortable. Remember that the problem has probably escalated since its onset.

Demonstrate empathy for the individual.
Use terms and tone of voice that indicate sensitivity to the individual's feelings. Indicate directly and sincerely that you realize what the individual is going through. Examples may be "You must be feeling very frustrated." "It must feel like no one is hearing what you say." "You must have been disappointed when . . ."

Acknowledge the difficult situation.
Don't pass the buck. This is the worst thing as a coach you can do - your individual is looking to you for help. Just assist the individual in getting the problem fixed.

Maintain a professional attitude.
Don't take it personally - the individual is angry at the situation - not at you. Don't react in kind - keep your cool. Don't walk away - (unless there is extreme abuse) use your quality service skills.

Use calming and focusing techniques.
Listen - give the individual the opportunity to vent frustration, anger, worry, etc. - again showing the important quality of empathy for the individual. Don't focus on the frustration or anger. Instead, listen for useful information that will help you solve the problem. Remain calm - showing empathy will help you do this. Pause before responding - analyze what the individual has told you and give yourself time to think of what to say. Focus the individual's attention on the problem after they have calmed down somewhat. Express an attitude of cooperation, e.g., "Let's see what needs to be done to resolve this problem." Ask a question that will focus on the problem, e.g. "Tell me what you feel the problem is, what has happened up to this time, and what you hope the outcome will be."

Resolve the problem.
Get all the information needed. Make telephone calls if needed. Remember, your goal is to be sure that you have done your best -both from a problem resolution standpoint and from a positive communication standpoint.


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Office of Human Resources
One University Plaza, MS 3150
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701