The fine art of NOT reacting to your teenagers. Is there really an art to this? I think I should thank every difficult customer I ever served in my early twenties with my retail store. Thank them for teaching me through mouthy rages of insistence how to respond. The customer was not always right. Neither are our teenagers.
The customer could bring in an item that was not purchased in my store and scream in face that they wanted a refund/money for that item. Or a customer would get all red in the face and angry because the item that was available last week was no longer available, and I was demanded to get it to them now. Or a customer who wanted their furniture NOW as in right now, as in stop what you are doing and serve me now. With no understanding that their furniture was secured in a warehouse and that our trucks were out delivering to scheduled appointments. Yet even with that knowledge would get so worked up that I would not physically close my store, run to the warehouse and pull large pieces of furniture that required manly strength and deliver myself. Customers who left messes in my store and walked out. Food, dirty diapers tucked in a corner, finished beverage containers. My favorite was a customer who insisted we were having a half off sale on ALL our furniture. Threw such a fit that she would never shop in our store again. And came back next week to again tell us how awful of a store we are but still wanted to buy the furniture and did. (Kind of like our teenagers who are nice when they want money or a ride somewhere.)
Here is what I learned in my twenties that truly helped me with my teenagers. No matter what comes out of their mouth, do not react. I learned that most people have about 2-4 minutes of angry energy and steam. If I was quiet and practiced active listening skills with concern for my customers it was almost always the 2 minute mark that they ran out of steam. If I tried to inject and react to what they were saying it was like locked and loaded and 2-4 more minutes added to the fuse. The fact is simply this. Customer's truly believed they were right, even in obvious and factual wrongs. Teenagers are the same way. They will say and do things that are so factual wrong, but they believe they are right. Do not take offense to what comes out of their mouth. Do not react to what is coming out of their mouth. Listen. Actively listen and try not to inject. Let them get out what they need to get out. I trained my entire sales staff to respond this way.
I made the mistake many times with customers in my earlier months of opening my store to try and point out that they were in fact either lying or their facts were not accurate. Like the women who insisted that our entire store was 50% off. She showed me an ad, which was from another store and then insisted I match their 50% off sale. I listened, let her blow all the steam and energy around what she thought should be her right. I asked if I could ad her to our mailing list, so when we did have sales she would get them.
Teenagers just want to be heard and understood. Really that is mostly what it is. In the same way I trained my sales staff to never take to heart what the customer was saying, in the same way never take to heart the hurtful words that come out of our teenagers mouths. Breath deeply as they are blowing off steam. Actively listen. This does not mean you are agreeing or allowing the offenses. It means that they are able to outward process, unedited, and after it's all out you will be amazed at how ready they are to come to the table for a more controlled conversation.
I can not tell you how many angry customer's were diffused by just listening. Like the customer who bought a lamp for her 8 year old. Came into my store yelling and screaming at my sale person because her one year old touched the lamp and burned his fingers. Somehow that was my store's responsibility. She yelled and screamed. I stepped in and excused my young 18 year old sales person who sold her the lamp. I listened. I breathed and I allowed this customer to have a voice. When she was done, I asked her if she needed some water? I told her that I had kids and burns are scary. I asked her where the lamp was. She did not bring it back. She just thought we should educate parents on the dangers of lamps. She came back over and over and continued to buy products from my store. But believe me when I say she came in red faced and angry that day and left happy and heard.
Our teenagers get red faced at angry at us. It's going to happen and that is when we get to make a choice. Join the screaming and fuming match or wait it out. Then ask if you can get them a drink of water. Let them know you are so glad they felt that they could come and talk about it with you.
Now on my 3rd teenager and I can say that I may not get it in the moment at all times, but I have the resources in my back pocket with the experience of years with customers and my first two teenagers. My first two have grown up and into good friends. Now on my way with my 3rd teenager and still two more after that. Whoa baby it's sure is a ride. So remember, try not to make a face or interrupt the outward processing of our teenagers. Actively listen without trying to inject your own opinions and ideas. And if this is hard, then take some very slow deep breaths while they are unloading. Not always but easy, but we all have it in us to give it the ol' colllege try. Happy teenager raising.