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Don’t be left behind.

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Those of you who are unable to deal with the human stuff in the workplace will be left behind.

As The Economic Times HRWorld puts it,  ‘Soft skills, often known as human skills, or even thrive skills, are as important as technical skills, and their importance is rising in the new post-pandemic world’.

A spotlight has been shining down on society for the past couple of years, and we have seen some big, obvious changes in public life – social distancing, masks, vaccine passports and changes to workplaces such as the huge increase in working from home and flexible working arrangements. We have also seen some small, subtle changes in the way we move about the world – and it’s these small changes that I’m most interested in.

Think about, from your own experience, the subtle shifts in your personal values over the past few years. Some of these changes may have impacted the way you think and behave when it comes to moving through a crowded venue. They may influence your choices to accept a social invitation or stay at home (because dealing with people is exhausting), or maybe they’ve changed the way you think about what you deserve and what you are entitled to.

When the fabric of society changes (and it has), two things happen: people’s expectations change and people’s tolerance levels change. We are living in some very unusual times, and both the obvious and subtle changes are affecting how humans interact with each other. Nationwide, we are seeing a spike in dissatisfied, grumpy and angry customers, and frontline staff are needing greater support and assistance in dealing with unpredictable human behaviours.

Waking up to other people’s behaviours and the way you respond to them is a key skill to strengthen as we navigate these times – and customer service is a wonderful training ground for building this muscle.

If you’re familiar with the party game Cards Against Humanity, you’ll know that it encourages players to fill in blank statements using words or phrases that can be offensive, politically incorrect and more than a little edgy. Putting aside whether you like the game or not, it does allow players to build muscle around how they respond to random, risqué behaviour from unpredictable humans, around a dinner table with a glass of wine!

A version of this game for customer-service training might, in fact, be a very useful starting point as we integrate and train employees to deal with the world that we all live in now.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

– A Paraphase of Carl Jung

Question

How conscious are you of your reactions and responses to the unpredictable behaviours of others when serving them?

Practice

Dial up your awareness of the people you’re interacting with, as opposed to focusing on your own unspoken thoughts. Get curious about how people behave and interact with you, regardless of whether they are teammates, customers or friends. Turn the volume of your thoughts down and tune into the present moment more when you’re with people. Just watch.

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