A debt collector said on a recent course that ultimately he had to get angry to get his point across. Some of the clients he telephones will deny they purchased goods even though he has their signature on an order form. Worse still, they can deny ever having spoken to him when he knows he has spoken to them on several recent occasions.
It is understandable that dealing with clients who are ‘trying it on’ is very frustrating but what is achieved through engaging in angry behaviour towards them? If you do, you are now working with a client who is ‘trying it on’ and reacting to your angry emotions.
It is a myth that in the end we have to get angry to get things done. Undoubtedly, getting angry informs the other person that we are experiencing an intense negative feeling surrounding our interaction with them. If this were the only goal we were seeking, we would usually achieve it 100% – top marks! Unfortunately, getting the other person to really understand what we mean and more importantly, to act upon it, tends not to come along in that way.
Other results we ‘achieve’ when we take our anger out on our clients (directly or passively) include:
raising our own blood pressure and stress,
reducing our ability to think creatively,
causing the client to react back, and
ensuring the client is now more obstinate that when we started the conversation.
In the case of our debt collector, an angry client has less capacity to ‘hear’ information about the next steps in the financial recovery process. Anger often gets in the way of people taking action that might be helpful for them.
The debt collector did admit that ultimately the client paying or not depended on their financial circumstances rather than on the amount of anger he could direct at them (so why the 20 years of aggravation and stress then?!).
His goal should be to achieve clarity in all client communications. If the clients understand the legal process involved they tend to pay. If still they don’t pay, then they probably do not have the financial resources anyway. In any rate the introduction of anger in the process just confuses and delays action.
You probably spotted that a debt recovery agency usually has clear legal powers backing them up. What happens if customers lie or ‘try it on’ when the power balance is less clear cut, perhaps when clients are making accident claims or applying for services or benefits? Are we then not entitled to show our displeasure through direct or passive anger towards them? This is often exactly where a client wants us to be. Creating an angry fog is strategy number one for people trying to mask a weak case
Far better to control your anger and properly investigate what is being said, by calmly questioning the client regarding the information they are providing. Firstly, they may be telling the truth (many people do), and secondly, if they are telling untruths you will find it easier to unravel a ‘story’ when you are relaxed rather than angry.
When we expose someone’s ‘story’ through professional questioning we model an appropriate way of behaving for them and will have succeeded in avoiding a great deal of stress for ourselves.