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Leader in Action

Have you ever witnessed a confrontation that made you feel uncomfortable? I was recently waiting in line to purchase some wood at a state park. The man in front of me became angry over a ranger’s response to his request and started yelling and waving his arms at her. Her response to the situation was inspiring.

As the man shared his anger, the ranger remained calm and slowly stood up so that she was at his level. She kept eye contact and let him share his thoughts. Her response was clear and concise. She shared that she heard his frustration, then she shared that the park has specific rules in place for a reason and proceeded to list the options available to him. The man again shared his displeasure, and the ranger repeated the options available and ended the conversation with, “I hope that you are able enjoy all that the park has to offer.”

I must admit that the man was not happy when he left. I do not know this for a fact, but I got the impression that he was not interested in listening, compromising or in anything other than getting what he wanted. I am sure that all of us have felt that we wanted things done our way sometime in our life.

The park ranger’s response is a great example of how to handle difficult people:

· She actively listened and let the man know that she heard what he said

· She stood up so the man was not looking down at her

· She gave clear options and left the choice of resolution to the man

· She kept strong; she did not apologize, because she had nothing to apologize for.

· She clearly ended the conversation and did it in a positive way

Dealing with difficult people is not easy and does not always end with everyone being happy. What was meaningful in this interaction is that the park ranger did not discredit, ignore, or absorb the strong emotions, she was helpful by giving clear options and she ended in a caring way.

How might you have handled this situation if you were the park ranger?

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