If there is only one lesson I am grateful for learning this year, it would have to be this.

Most of the personality conflicts I see come from the parties not feeling heard or acknowledged. Most of the time it simply took a third party (with no vested interests) to sit quietly and let all the parties vent their points to de-fuse a conflict to the point where progress can proceed.

Allowing an annoyed customer to feel heard and understood (and therefore valued) is still the best approach to stop complaints escalating to PR disasters.

I have just experienced a classic example of this with People Telecom. I had some recurring billing anomalies with an account. Emails were never answered, and phone queues take up to an hour +. When I finally managed to get hold of a human, she clarified everything and promised all will be sorted, and that they will send out an email detailing the anomalies. I received nothing and am now back to a stone wall. Within a few short encounters, I have now completely stopped referring customers to them. They now have to try ten times harder to win back my loyalty – if they ever can. Did it really have to be so hard?

To genuinely hear someone, you need to genuinely listen. I have encountered people (and businesses) who say all the right things “I hear you. I understand.” without meaning any of it – this only adds exponentially to the alienation and frustration of the other party.

Letting someone have their say, and genuinely listening to them is the ultimate respect you can give someone. It is not easy to do especially if you are one of the parties in the conflict.

In my experience, the outcome of genuinely listening to someone is consistently positive. The exception is when the other party sees the listening posture not as respect, but as a “weakness” to press on and push their point even harder. There comes a point with people like this where the only sensible option is to withdraw!