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Don’t Get Mad—Get Curious

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By Cindy Campbell

HE ANGRY WOMAN STOMPED TOWARD ME, furiously swinging a crinkled citation in her

This was while I was working as a university parking enforcement officer some years ago, but I clearly remember tensing up, feeling equally defensive and decisive. Defensive, as she had chosen to approach me with judgement and disrespect, and decisive as in nothing she said from that point forward would get her what she wanted. In my mind, she had declared war on me, and I wasn’t about to let her win. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the conversation took a steep downhill turn from there.  No doubt you have encountered plenty of these “fighting words” situations in the course of performing your own job duties. Confrontational conversations like these can cause anxiety, stress, and defensiveness for all involved. If we allow ourselves to react instinctively, we may respond to their anger with equal volatility. In my old way of thinking, I used the “don’t 12 PARKING & MOBILITY / MAY 2021 / PARKING-MOBILITY.ORG

get mad, get even” philosophy when encountering customers like this. If I felt verbally attacked, I would interpret criticism or irate comments as a threat and my instinctive response was always defensiveness. Sound familiar? The good news is that we have the capability to change our instinctive defensive response. When we’re able to recognize the triggering behaviors that cause us to react with defensiveness, we have the ability to choose a different reaction. My suggestion? When situations like this arise, don’t get mad—get curious.

The Concept of Curiosity When others initiate communication with us using disrespectful words and statements, it’s important to remember that there’s always a reason for their outburst. While their reaction may not be fully justified,

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clenched fist. “You parking people can be SO annoying!!”, she shouted.

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