Fifth Inning – Business and Baseball: Ignore the Hecklers

Treat everyone with kindness, even those who are rude to us – not because they are nice, but because we are. ~ Anonymous

Life’s too important to be petty. Ignore little hurts & keep moving. ~ Rick Warren

Angry LemonsHave you ever watched a professional baseball game and seen an athlete just go off on a fan in the stands who went just a little too far in his taunting? It’s not a pretty sight. And no matter how abusive the heckler was, the athlete is the one who ends up looking bad. Right or wrong, the assumption is that athletes are expected to rise above the crowd, not allowing the taunts, jeers, and comments to get to him. After all, the athlete is getting paid; the fan isn’t.

This situation is similar to what we as businesspeople face. You’ve heard the phrase, “The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong.” That means that you sometimes have to bite your tongue and move forward, even when an objective observer would say you were “right.”

Here are five reasons you should always take the high road:

  1. You gain karma. Putting positive energy into the universe will bring positive experiences back to you.
  2. You never know what’s happening behind the scenes. The person screaming at the center fielder may just have found out he has colon cancer and is venting his fear. The person sending you a nasty email may have just found out her daughter is suffering from epilepsy. Giving others an undeserved helping of grace might help them when they need it most.
  3. You can’t really “win.” With customers (and heckling fans), you never win, even if you “win.” Don’t get into a spitting contest when squashing them like a bug will just make you look bad.
  4. You won’t waste time or energy. Some people are just grumpy, looking for some place to blow off steam. Fighting back only fuels the fire. Direct your energy where it can be put to best use. Martin Luther King said it best, “Don’t hate, it’s too big a burden to bear.” (Matthew 5:43 – 48)
  5. Your mom was right. Remember when she told you that the people talking behind your back were just jealous? A lot of times, that’s true. The fact that people are aiming their squirt guns your way is a sign that you’re succeeding, and the more you succeed, the more it will happen.

Yes, it’s hard to ignore the hecklers. But here are some ways you can block out the jeers and taunts:

  • Imagine them as little children. If a two-year-old was throwing a tantrum, you’d treat them with more compassion and less anger, so imagine them that way.
  • Breathe deep. When you think you’re being attacked, it’s easy to fall into that “fight or flight” response. Breathing deeply helps clear the adrenaline from your body.
  • Bring in a third party. If a response is required and you cannot answer without anger or emotion, have an objective third party answer for you. Many business people outsource their customer support email for this particular reason.

Unbelievably, angry customers are the best opportunity to create a positive customer experience. When we take a customer’s negative experience and turn it positive, the long emotional distance they have traveled makes them our strongest supporters.

Before you talk, listen. Before you react, think. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try! ~ Tommy Tenney

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” ~ Blaise Pascal

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