In the last issue of Engaging Ideas, we were discussing the fine
line between offering an honest opinion, and being brutal with the
truth. We also discovered how describing your emotions to a prospect
can be a highly effective way to streamline your communication, and
prevent breakdowns in understanding.
There is, however, at least one emotion that requires a little more
clarification: anger. Anger can be frightening, even if the person
who’s angry is merely reporting the emotion rather than demonstrating
it. Why? Because anger is a secondary emotion, not a primary one.
Therefore, anger does not reveal the whole truth.
At least once in every seminar I conduct, someone describes a situation
in which they have been very angry with a customer or prospect. I’m
willing to bet you’ve also experienced times when you’ve been angry
with a customer, frustrated by their actions or upset at their behavior
Anger is one of the most sensitive emotions to address and communicate,
because it often comes with the perception that you’re being emotional
or out of control. The advice we give our clients when they find themselves
becoming angry is to try to be as honest as possible, and to focus
on solutions and options – not on laying blame.
Three options for expressing anger
If you’re concerned about how to express your anger with your customers,
ask yourself which of the following three options would be most likely
to yield the best results:
The first option is to deny that you’re angry. The problem is, this
seldom fools anyone. More importantly, denying anger breaks down
trust by making people feel deceived. Remember, most of us are lousy
actors, and most of our customers are smart people. Unless your
name is Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep, odds are, they’ll have a
pretty good idea that they’re not being told the truth.
The second option is to acknowledge the anger by saying something
like: "Yes, I am very angry." This is preferable to denial,
but it can still make the person you’re speaking with feel uneasy.
Why? Because you’re still not stating the whole truth about the
real cause of your anger.
The third option is the simplest, and also the most effective: acknowledge
your anger and verbalize the complete truth. Here’s an example:
"Yes, I’m angry and upset by this decision, because it means
that we won’t have enough resources to do the job we agreed to do
for you. I’m afraid that if the decision stands, it will negatively
affect the outcome of your project, and our future relationship."
This way, you’re not only being truthful in what you say. You’re
also allowing others to see what is truly fuelling your anger, so
that they will have a better idea of what they can do to help.
Just the facts
In the final analysis, expressing anger comes down to the same principles
that govern the expression of any other emotion: the fine line between
honesty and brutality can be walked successfully only by remembering
that a customer does not need – or want – to hear all your opinions
and perspectives. To stay on the right side of the line, it’s important
that we recognize and verbalize our emotions, but not dwell on them.
Successful sales people understand that they achieve the best results
when they limit their communication to the facts and how they feel
about them – not their opinions and perceptions.