The most common question we hear when it comes to customer service is “How Can I Help You?” but where it is even more valuable is in the area of conflict resolution. In this SAFE 101 Violence Prevention blog, I would like to offer you a couple brief reasons why this question should be part of every conflict resolution training program, whether it be taught in the workplace, in your martial arts program, self-defence course, or in your home.
So, you find yourself in a conflict with someone you have never met. It does not matter how it started. You are not sure if it is a circumstantial conflict or you are being targeted, but there you are standing face to face with someone yelling at you and finger-pointing. The person is approaching you aggressively, and your first thought is to say something like, “Hey, Relax there, Buddy!”, or “Calm Down Skippy!”. But you resist because you have read some of the SAFE 101 content on verbal de-escalation. You think, let’s give it a try and you politely, but confidently say from a passive stance with your hands up, “How Can I Help You?”
They stop in their tracks and begin to tell you the issue they have with you. You are thinking, WOW, they are actually answering my question. They accuse you of something, and from there, you address their issue. Whether you come to an amicable resolution, agree to disagree, but part ways. Or they proceed to get more aggressive, the question of “How Can I Help You?” is a potent tool in conflict resolution.
First and foremost, it is not challenging to the other person. Just saying the words on their own, does not bring escalation to the scenario unless you say it with some sarcasm or underlying challenge or threat. A question such as, “What’s Your Problem?” you might think is similar, but is rarely spoken with an empathetic desire to really understand what the other person’s issue might be like asking “How Can I Help You?”
Just imagine someone saying both of those to you in a heated conflict. The majority of people automatically get a different feeling or message when they see and hear it being told to them.
Asking “How Can I Help You?” is a polite way to seek the source of their anger, and if done with the appropriate body language and tone, you will often see an immediate reduction in their temperament.
If you ask, “How Can I Help You?” and the person stops and tells you, there is a very high chance it is due to circumstantial events, and you can come to some resolution 10 times out of 10 assuming you maintain the proper strategies. If the person ignores, disregards the question, keeps advancing talking over you, or not letting you get a word in, there is a high chance you will have to defend yourself. Regardless the question is useful to you in how to strategize from that point on.
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