The Telephone Doctor: Emotional leakageNancy Friedmannegative emotion, co-workers, customers, professional composure Getting mad at Peter and taking it out on Paul We've all seen it happen: A co-worker comes into work storming angry, with his mouth turned down in a frown. He walks through the office without saying hello to anyone, sits down at his desk, starts barking orders to his co-workers and doesn't come out of his office. And when his phone rings, he picks it up and bellows out, "Yeah?" That's sad, isn't it? Something must have happened before he got to work, and he carried it right inside the building. Telephone Doctor calls this "emotional leakage," and we cure it all the time. Hey, it's no fun to get up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. And it's sure not fun to get a flat tire on the way to work or to argue with someone before breakfast. It's unfortunate that some people aren't able to shake it off and move on about their business. Emotional leakage is getting mad at Peter and taking it out on Paul. It's not right, fair or fun. It's taking a negative emotion out on someone who wasn't involved. How rude can you get? If emotionally leaking on co-workers certainly isn't fair, then emotionally leaking on customers is even worse. The customer or co-worker, in most cases, wasn't involved in whatever put you in a bad mood, so why take it out on him? Few things are more unfair and damaging to a relationship than emotionally leaking a negative experience on someone who wasn't involved. And yet, unfortunately, it happens every day, be it at home, in the office, on the streets or in the stores. That's sad, isn't it? While shopping the other day, the person helping me was obviously not in a good mood at all. In fact, I think if she had smiled, her face would have cracked. She gave me one-word answers and kept turning her head to see who was coming or going. Normally, I walk out on that type of service. It's just not worth my time to be treated like that. But this time, I was in a hurry and needed the product. So, I did something I don't normally do. I asked her if everything was all right. Was she OK? I tried to make it sound as though I was interested (even though I wasn't). But I sure didn't want her negative emotions leaking on me any longer. With a big sigh and a sad face, she told me that she and her boyfriend had had a big fight the night before and she was hoping he'd come by and apologize. "Excuse me," I said, "was I with you?" Believe it or not, she smiled and said, "Of course not." Then I nicely told her, "If I wasn't there, then I don't want to be part of that argument." She started to apologize, as well she should have. Then I thought about a vase I had once. I dropped it. It broke into several pieces. My husband, Dick, and I talked about whether we should take it somewhere and have a professional put it back together. Dick said, "We can do that if you'd like, but it will never be the same. You'll always feel the cracks." And so it is with our co-workers and customers. You can be in a bad mood, be it because of an argument, a flat tire or breaking your favorite item, and you can apologize. But people will still remember how you treated them and made them feel, and they will for a long time. So, how do we cure emotional leakage? It's a quick, four-step process. Stop what you're doing. Take a deep breath. Put on a phony smile (yes, you can). Regain your professional composure. Then, talk with the person, be it in person or on the phone. Emotionally leaking on someone is never right. And, of course, there are times when we'll get emotionally leaked on by others. Think how you feel when that happens to you, and then remember to never emotionally leak on others. Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St. Louis. For more information, call (314) 291-1012.