How to Deal With Grumpy Old Farts

October 19, 2009 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized)

I work around a lot of old boaters, and many of them have a major chip on their shoulder.  I can’t tell you how many times I have to hear about the economy, or their bad health (while they inhale a Marlboro red), rising slip fees, politics, or the expensive broken thing on their boat.

Day after day, the constant complaining starts to wear on even the most positive customer service expert.  I try and keep my head up by doing the following:

1- Change the subject.  This works especially well with politics.  I actually have imposed a no-politics rule in my office.  Make a joke out of it… “You know we don’t talk politics in here, the ambulance response is too slow!”  Also, talking about the weather is always a welcome topic, even in Southern California.

2- Be a bright spot of sunshiney happiness.  No matter how annoyed I am, I try to find some light, positive twist to whatever they say.  This is a skill, and takes practice, but can actually help both parties feel better.  Fake it ’til you make it!

3- Just listen and try to empathize with them.  Say “I understand how you feel.  I’m really sorry.”  This is so simple, and sometimes all people want to do is rant and get it off their chest.  It is not possible for me to solve every problem, but I can definitely improve their opinion of me if I hear them out.

4- Jokes!  First, feel it out.  If the person seems to want to complain just for the sake of complaining, it can be a huge relief to joke around with them.  I wonder how it must be for a grumpy curmudgeon, and I think a lot of them need a hug and a laugh.

5- Ask them about something personal.  How is their family?  Job?  This doesn’t have to be a change of subject; ask them about how the economy has affected them, then always give a similar problem of your own to relate to them.  Bridge that gap!

I used to really dislike dealing with older people, but I’ve found that a little patience and understanding goes a long way.  Now they know me as the one to talk to, and I don’t mind at all!  If I can make their day better, even for a second, it was worth it.

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