Sunday, 5 July 2015

Body Language in Handling Complaints

I am personally super excited to write this particular entry today. Dealing with complaints, complains, a bane in a Building Manager’s existence. Why can’t people be happy with what they have? Why must they complaint of seemingly trivial matters like noisy neighbours, low water pressure, mirrors in the hallway is not as shiny as they want it to be, lobbies not spotless etc. Why ? Why ? Why? 

Having been in your shoes for years, I can totally understand your frustrations. However I hate to break it to you , almost 70% of a Building Manager’s job involves dealing with complains. You will have to face difficult tenants no matter which part of the world you work in. I am  going to use the term tenant in this entry in place of clients, residents, apartment owners. Lesser for me to write and easier for you to understand. 

The first step we should take here is to understand why people complain in the first place.  Basically complains arises when your expectations are not met. For example when the tenant moved into a condominium, they expect the condo to be a classy one, with spotless lobbies, working gymnasium equipments, a well maintained and clean swimming pool to name a few. And they will be upset when they do not get what they are paid for. So naturally to get things done you will have to complain. Do understand to complain also takes effort on the tenants part. They will have to spend their time and energy coming to your office , calling you or writing you an email to convey their displeasures. Often when something gets to a complain stage , it often shows that the person is really affected by it. 

Oops forgot to inform you that  in this entry we will  deal with how to handle verbal (face to face) complains, will discuss other forms of complains on subsequent entries.  The first thing you should do when faced with a complaint is to (and this is very very important) change your mindset. Adopt a positive mindset, open your mind, clear your mind of all preconceived notions and stereotypes.  Immediately put yourself in the complainants shoes and try to feel what they feel.  This small yet significant step is especially important when you first receive a complain. 

Imagine if the complainant ( who may be your tenant or member of the building committee) come to your office or you having to meet them, already have a negative attitude towards the situation, you start thinking that these people are rich and demanding, they love exaggerating and their complains are ridiculous. You already have a negative attitude towards the situation and you will not be able to deal with the situation as best as you can. when negative and negative collide things will become more negative. What i mean is, your negative attitude will lead you to convey negative body language and instead of helping the complainant solve their problem you will make things worst and create an unpleasant  situation for yourself.  A person who complains is more often than not angry and upset. They might shout or raise your voice at you, demanding a response and when you start shouting,get defensive and getting angry back, it does not help solve the problem. You will focus on defending yourself on getting angry and not on solving the problem on hand and be done and rid of the complainant. Therefore the first step to change our mindset to a positive one and to empathise is important. 

When you adopt a positive mindset, your body language will automatically change as your body language responds or mirrors what you are thinking and feeling. 
Wow that's a long introduction and it has nothing to do with body language. I know. I am getting to the point now but at the same time i do not wish to breeze through the part on changing your mindset as it is one of the most important step when dealing with complaints no matter how nasty they come. 

In the last entry, I highlighted the importance of body language in communication. A large percentage of communication is non verbal. Knowledge and skills in body language can help you in your professional life and give you an added advantage over others and also an added advantage in situations. The police force, politicians all recognise the important role of body language. They use it to their advantage in important events like making speech during their elections. Body language has also landed some politicians and criminals in hot soup. 

When dealing with complainants, after changing your mindset, the next important step is for you to adopt an open body language so that you can build trust and rapport with the complainant. When you adopt a positive mindset your body language will naturally align with your thoughts and you will subconsciously portray a positive body language which will enable you to win the complainant over. 

So what exactly is a positive body language? Well the following are positive body language that will help you turn a negative situation around or at least enable you to build rapport and trust from the other party.

If the other person is sitting, you ought to do the same. If you are standing and the other person is sitting, it may look like you are talking down on them.

Regardless if you are sitting or standing, keep an eye of your posture. Sitting or standing up straight indicates confidence. When the complainant gets the impression that you are confident, it is easier for them to trust you.  Stand up tall and widen your stance. Of course ladies…not too wide that it appears indecent. 

When you are sitting down , lean in so as to indicate that your are actually listening and are interested. 

As you are already aware, make eye contact. Eye contact is important but of course do not stare till the other person get uncomfortable.  You will be glad to know that some studies have shown that the more you have eye contact with the other person, the more they will grow to like you. (useful for dates i guess ;p )
Give the complainant your full attention, drop everything else that you are doing and focus on them. 

Ok this is an important point, sort of my secret weapon. Basically if you would like to create a rapport with someone what you should do is mirror their body language, but do it subtly so that they will not notice it, If they are leaning forward, you do the same. If they are using hand gestures, do the same but again the key here is subtleness. Sit in the same way they do (if appropriate). 
Use open palm gestures. An open body language helps yourself and the complainant to relax. 

The above are things you should do.Now I am going to tell you the stuffs that you should not do. The negative body language.

First and foremost is folding your arms. I know you may sometimes do it because you are feeling cold but when someone is in a heated mood and is complaining to you they might associate folding of arms with negative attitudes . They may think that you are being defensive, disrespectful or hostile towards them. 

Do not tap your feet or fingers as it signifies impatience. That their complains are not worth your time. 

Avoid pointing your finger. I have seen many situations spiral out of control just because of this simple gesture. It may be perceived as threat, that you are threatening the other person.


Sitting on the edge of your seat may show that you are feeling edgy. Sit back and relax, be comfortable. When someone sees that you are comfortable their attitude towards you may change for the better.