Saturday, September 23, 2023

Assertiveness and Self-Confidence


An assertive person is confident and direct in dealing with others. Assertive communication promotes fairness and equality in human interactions based on a positive sense of respect for self and others. It is the direct communication of a person’s needs, wants, and opinions without punishing, threatening, or putting down another person.

Assertive behavior includes the ability to stand up for a person’s legitimate rights without violating the rights of others or being overly fearful in the process. Assertive behavior is skill that can be learned and is situational specific, meaning different types of assertive behavior can be used in different situations. Assertive behavior involves three categories of skills; self-affirmation, expressing positive feelings, and expressing negative feelings.


Self-confidence plays an important role in our everyday lives. Being confident allows us to set and reach our goals. It provides stability when we are faced with a challenge; it gives us that push that helps us overcome difficulties. Self-confidence is necessary in our personal and professional lives as without it, we would not be successful in either. It gives us the ability to stand up to face our challenges and to pick ourselves up when we fall.

Self-confidence is a belief in oneself, one's abilities, or one's judgment. It is freedom from doubt. When you believe you can change things -- or make a difference in a situation, you are much more likely to succeed.

As a self-confident person, you walk with a bounce in your step. You can control your thoughts and emotions and influence others. You are more prepared to tackle everyday challenges and recover from setbacks. This all leads to a greater degree of optimism and life satisfaction. 

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Monday, September 11, 2023

Obstacles to Our Goals

Obstacles are encountered every day of our lives, but what we do and how we react during these events will determine the outcomes of such events. Our reactions to these obstacles will determine if the situation becomes a minor annoyance to a major event. Over-reacting to a small annoyance can magnify the issue and make larger than it actually is. These are the types of reactions that should be kept in check. What is an appropriate response to each obstacle that we encounter? Like many things, the obstacle will determine the response. 

Types of Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is the process of thinking negative rather than positive thoughts. Seemingly, positive thinking requires effort while negative thinking is uninvited and happens easily. 

A person who has been brought up in a happy and positive atmosphere where people value success and self-improvement will have a much easier time thinking positively. One who was brought up in a poor or difficult situation will probably continue to expect difficulties and failure.

Negative thoughts center on the individual, others, and the future. Negative thinking causes problems such as depression, pessimism, and anxiety.

Typical types of negative thinking are described below. 

Overgeneralization: Make a general universal rule from one isolated event

Global labeling: Automatically use disparaging labels to describe yourself

Filtering: Pay attention selectively to the negative, disregarding the positive

Polarized thinking: Group things into absolute, black-and-white categories, assuming that you must be perfect or you are worthless

Self-blame: Persistently blame yourself for things that may not be your fault

Personalization: Assume that everything has something to do with you, negatively comparing yourself to everyone else

Mind-reading: Feel that people don't like you or are angry with you, without any real evidence

Control fallacies: Feel that you have total responsibility for everybody and everything or that you have no control as a helpless victim

Emotional reasoning: Believe that things are the way you feel about them

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Sensitivity in Dealing with Difficult Customers

Customers who are Angry

Dealing with a customer who is angry requires patience and the utmost care in managing your own mood.

  • Don’t take it personally, and beware of your own defensive thoughts. 
  • Remain calm. Take deep breaths to relax and slow your own arousal levels.
  • No matter how outrageous your customer’s ranting may seem, look for and note any truths in their statements. Listen actively and ask questions when appropriate to understand the real problem.
  • Use a brief moment of silence to allow your customer to finish venting and to allow yourself to regroup.
  • Once you respond, express agreement with your customer about any truth you noted. Express empathy, and offer an apology for their experience. You can apologize without expressing any wrongdoing or accepting blame. Express willingness to find a solution.

Customers who are Rude

A customer who is rude to you can make it very difficult for you to do your job. Here are some suggestions that can help:

  • Remember that your role is to act as a partner in resolving the customer’s issue. 
  • When a customer is being directly abusive towards you, it may be necessary to remind the customer that personal attacks aren’t helpful towards resolving the situation, but this must be done delicately. When you point out such behavior, make sure that you do so from a place of calm and optimism. Remind the customer that you are dedicated to helping them resolve their issue.
  • Consult with your company or supervisor regarding business policies regarding customers making personal attacks. 

Customers with Different Cultural Values

We all come from different cultural backgrounds. How people express anger, for example, differs widely. Remain open to the notion that different cultures are just as valid as your own. Recognize any distorted thinking patterns in your reaction to a customer of a different culture.

Customers who Cannot be Satisfied

There are times when you will have to interact with a customer who won’t be satisfied, no matter what you do. Nevertheless, you still have to try. As with any other type of challenging customer, your first step is to remain calm. Here are some additional strategies:

  • Ask the customer directly what a successful resolution would look like to them. They may or may not be able to articulate this. If what they require is something beyond your capability, be up front about it. 
  • Remember what the real problem is. Sometimes, reframing the problem may point to a viable solution that you had not previously considered.
  • Offer a range of solutions that are within your purview. If they want something that you can’t deliver, offer alternatives.
  • Occasionally what a customer is looking for may not be something you can do but your supervisor can. This usually should be a last resort only.


Once you have resolved a customer’s issue, take a moment to summarize the issue and the resolution. Ask the customer if the situation is resolved and how you may further assist. It is also a good idea to follow up later and make sure the issue is still resolved. 

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Dealing with a Difficult Customer in Person

When you interact with a customer in person, you have both greater challenges and greater opportunities to build rapport with that customer than you have when speaking with them over the phone. Consequently, nearly everything said about handling a customer over the phone is in play as well as additional approaches. 

Listen to the Customer’s Concerns

When interacting with a customer in person, non-verbal communication can supersede verbal indicators that you are listening and engaged. 

  • Make eye contact, but avoid staring. The appropriate amount of eye contact varies from person-to-person and culture to culture. 
  • An attentive posture involves leaning slightly towards the speaker or tilting your head towards the speaker.
  • Use non-verbal encouragers such as nodding, holding a thumbs-up sign, or other gestures that communicate the same idea as verbal encouragers such as go on or yes.
  • Listen fully by paying attention to your customer’s body language and posture.
  • Reflect back your customer’s expressions when you can do so genuinely. 
  • Allowing yourself to be distracted can completely negate customers’ beliefs that you are listening to them. Avoid looking at the clock or your phone, writing or doodling, or playing with your hair or picking your fingernails.
Build Rapport

In building rapport face-to-face, you must be aware of what your physical presence communicates and use positive and open expressions and postures such as facing someone directly without having your arms or legs crossed, looking them in the eye, and smiling. Your environment can also have an effect. 

For example, a desk or counter between you and your customer can close communication to some degree. 

Respond with Positive Words and Body Language

People tend to synchronize their behavior when they interact which is why mirroring another’s expressions, posture, and body language can be effective in building rapport.  Responding to negativity with positivity can defuse a customer’s negativity. Follow up with expressions of genuine empathy and with positive words and body language that convey enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, and tenacity.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Monday, August 28, 2023

Dealing with a Difficult Customer Over the Phone

Listen to the Customer’s Complaint

The value of listening cannot be overstated. However, listening involves more than simply hearing the words the customer says. Developing the skills of active listening can ensure you not only hear the words your customers say but understand your customers’ concerns on a deeper level. You will find our steps for active listening at

Build Rapport

• Address the other person by name. 

• Have a smile in your voice. 

• Use “we” language to indicate the collaborative nature of the interaction. 

• Be honest and genuine. If you truly do not know the answer to a question, be up front but also demonstrate a willingness to find the answer.

• Demonstrate empathy and actively listen, speaking with an even pace and in a lower tone of voice.

• Be attentive to silence. A short silence allows you the opportunity to digest what the customer is telling you, and it indicates to the customer that you are thinking about what they said.

• Show agreement with the customer when you do genuinely agree, and express specifically why you agree.

• If you must disagree with a customer, give your reasons first, and do it gently.

• Be polite in your interactions. You can offer compliments when genuine, but don’t overdo it. Avoid criticism. Instead, offer alternatives in the form of a question: "What if we tried this …"

Do NOT Respond with Negative Words or Emotion

If you respond with negative words or emotions, this can reinforce the negativity. While responding with empathy often requires that you acknowledge a customer’s negative emotions, your choice of words can set the tone for the remainder of the conversation. For example, to acknowledge that your customer has had a frustrating experience, using the word “challenging” rather than “frustrating”, can communicate that the problem is a solvable one.

Offer a Solution

Offering a solution or a range of solutions helps to diminish a customer’s anxiety. Be specific, and set realistic expectations. When offering a range of solutions, indicate your preferred solution and why it’s preferred. Ask, “does this work for you?” If the answer is "no," probe further to determine the objections.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Handling a Difficult Customer: Why they may be difficult

They Have Truly Had a Bad Experience and Want to Vent

Venting swing emotions such as anxiety and anger can be a useful strategy in slowing down thoughts and reaching a calmer emotional state. When customers vent, they want a solution, but more importantly, they want to know that they are being heard -- that their concerns are valid. Listening actively with empathy to an upset customer can de-escalate their emotional state.

They Want Someone to be Held Accountable

Customers looking for accountability feel anxious and angry. To be held accountable is to acknowledge that you can be responsible for where things go from here. When you take responsibility, you are saying that you are able to respond to the situation rather than saying the situation is your fault. Often when you reassure a customer that you are going to help them, and you offer a specific strategy on how you will do so, this helps the customer feel less anxious. By providing specific information, you help customers to de-escalate their anxiety. 

They Have Truly Had a Bad Experience and Want Resolution

When customers express that they are looking for a resolution, they can quickly de-escalate when they know that you are working toward a resolution. Sometimes conflicts can arise when the resolution is not what the customer wants or expects, including the idea that a complete resolution may take time. In this case, being honest and offering multiple options can help a customer accept the range of resolutions being offered. 

They are Generally Unhappy

Customers who are generally unhappy people can be exceptionally difficult. When you ask what is wrong, they can launch into an entire laundry list. When dealing with generally unhappy people, you can help them by refocusing their attention on the here and now and the problem at hand. Rather than asking what is wrong, you can ask how you can help them today or look for specific steps you can take to resolve a specific issue. Remain authentically positive and look for a specific solution.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Monday, August 21, 2023

Handling a Difficult Customer: Attitude

At first glance, handling a difficult customer may seem like a thankless job. Fortunately, you can develop skills to adapt to the challenges difficult customers pose and extend these skills to handling difficult people and situations throughout your life. By improving the focus of your thoughts and feelings, how you manage stress, and how well you listen to and empathize with others, you will be better able to meet the challenges other people pose in both your professional and personal life. 


Keeping a positive mental attitude in the face of difficulty isn’t easy. In fact, our brains seem to be hardwired to focus on the negative as studies have shown. However, many studies have also demonstrated that cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” and engaging in regular exercise and meditation have dramatic effects on our sense of well being. Be grateful, think positively, manage your stress, and take a time-out when needed.

While many of your interactions with customers will be pleasant and positive, you inevitably will have to interact with customers who are difficult in some way. Keep in mind that just as your emotions surface to help you assess a situation, this is also the case for the customer. Regardless of why they are angry or upset, their feelings are valid. Having a clearer understanding of the reasons behind their behavior can help you to resolve their issue. 

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP