Question: How do you “not take it personally”?

Answers from frontline reps —

Customers may direct their anger or frustration at you but they are not actually frustrated or angry with you. Actually, they are often just frustrated with things that are affecting them, and that may be out of their control. If you are dealing with business customers, for example, they may be dealing with their own customers’ expectations and frustrations.

So even though it might be your first instinct to react emotionally, don’t. Instead, pause for a second or two, take a deep breath, and see how you can help your customer. Remember to always take it seriously, but don’t take it personally when a customer is upset.

Jo Sprowl, SKF USA Inc.


No one likes to be used for target practice, but it can be helpful to imagine yourself in the customer’s predicament. People react differently to unanticipated difficulties. Some can understand and accept problems. Others expect that everything will always go exactly according to plan. When someone comes at you with guns blazing, there are some tactics you can use to keep your emotions in check.

  • Listen. No matter how great the temptation, don’t argue and don’t interrupt. Let the customer know you are listening and give him a chance to say everything on his mind. Remind yourself that the customer is venting his frustration at the situation, not at you. Becoming defensive puts you in an adversarial position and triggers the “fight or flight” response. Suppress that adrenaline rush as best you can, perhaps by mentally counting to 10. You’ll be better able to take control of the call when the customer finishes his tirade.
  • Breathe! It sounds simplistic, but making a conscious effort to breathe deeply helps to relax you. Of course, you don’t want to be panting into the receiver. Just focus quietly on your breath. Mindful breathing allows you to disengage emotionally from the customer’s negative energy without letting your thoughts wander away from what’s being said.
  • Regroup. Rarely will a caller be so angry that nothing you say will pacify him. If the customer is spewing abuse and refuses to have a rational dialog, end the call as soon as possible. Make your supervisor aware of the situation. Stand up from your desk and walk around, or find a quiet place where you can sit alone for a few minutes to collect yourself.

Kate Frazier, Ball Horticultural Company


Really….Don’t take it personally. I find that people are freer with their language when they are on the phone. Unfortunately, the opportunity to try different methods will arise and you will have to keep trying different things so that the words slide off your back easier each time. Some things that work for me are:

  • Making a funny face.
  • Focusing on the problem, not on the words that are being used by the customer.
  • Putting the customer on notice as politely as possible. (Check your company policy first.)
  • Congratulating myself on a call well handled.

There are times, when you’re personally not in a good spot and the words get to you. Give yourself permission to take a couple of minutes away from the phone; record in a journal your positive handling of a difficult situation; tell yourself or ask someone “what&#!46;s one thing that I do really well in my work”.

Angela Twohig, The Chronicle Herald


In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own realities…” He continues with,

“Don’t take anything personally because, by taking things personally, you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.”

Since I began taking calls in my first contact center position, I’ve had this quote displayed around my desk. It is a constant reminder of the wisdom from Ruiz’s book.

Regardless of whether or not a customer is having a bad day before he or she calls the contact center, it is my job to help resolve whatever issue is presented. It is not my job to get personally affronted when he or she expresses frustration. I remind myself that the customer is frustrated because of the situation and I am the person who can explain and educate the customer about options for resolution.

Notice that if you allow the customer’s “bad mood” to influence your responses then you might have tunnel vision when assisting. This tunnel vision greatly decreases your ability to present effective ways to solve the customer’s concern. Understandably, it is sometimes difficult to separate yourself from possible extreme emotions. Remember to breathe, empathize, and present options for resolutions to customers.

Megann Wither, Navy Federal Credit Union

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