Frustrating customer conversations are unavoidable. No matter how great your product, your delivery, and your guidance, you’re still bound to encounter a customer who is dissatisfied at some point. What should you do when this happens?

Here’s one approach to help recover from this conversation and continue to grow your relationship. It based on an exercise shared in the book Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values by Fred Kofman.

Imagine that you just finished the frustrating call. You close your computer and you’re livid. Your mind starts its own one-way conversation:

This was going so well and we put SO MUCH effort into obtaining this customer...I really had to go to bat with the product team to make this happen...They’re going to be upset that the customer is dissatisfied and the blame will land on me...The customer is being ridiculous!

First, give yourself some time for your emotions to pass. Once you’re feeling less caught-up in the spiral of thoughts (this could take five minutes or even a day or two), you’re ready to take action.

Begin by creating a document with two columns. In the right-hand column, write out exactly what was said between you and the customer, to the best of your recollection.  

Then, in the left-hand column, write out all the things you were thinking (during and after the conversation) but didn’t say.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll have some thoughts in the left hand column that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see. Don’t feel guilty about them. The thoughts can seem outlandish once you see them in writing, but they’re inevitable and they’re a result of you caring about your work. The important thing is to let the thoughts occur but to make sure not to act on them.

Putting these thoughts into writing will help you to acknowledge them. Why acknowledge the thoughts and not just ignore them? Left unaddressed, the toxic thoughts will continue festering the back of your mind and may creep into your customer interactions. You can’t control what shows up in the left-hand column, but acknowledging what’s there can help you control how you respond to it.

I’ll share part two in next week’s article. In the meantime, try this exercise anytime you have a frustrating conversation (whether with a customer, a colleague, or in your personal life) in the next week. You’ll likely want to practice first on conversations that aren’t highly emotional—pick a small frustration and write about it.

Receive Owner's Manual's weekly article in your inbox by subscribing here.