Difficult People

Today I taught a difficult student. She left the online session early and slated me later because she did not receive what she wanted from the class. She was, and probably still is, unhappy. Yet, within the limits of the class structure, I don’t see how I could have done very much different.

This particular woman complained because she was not given enough speaking time, the connection was poor and she felt I was unfriendly. I can understand at least two of these complaints. Four other students from the same class described me as friendly and rated me a perfect 10 of of 10. I think I’m generally friendly.

What about speaking time? The class was forty-five minutes long. There were six students. Even if I only spoke for one third of the time (usually it is a little higher), there would only be thirty minutes of talking time to divide between six students. When one student, this woman, wants to speak a lot and speak over other students, this causes a problem. Yet all five other students paid for their session. Sacrificing their speaking time would be unhelpful.

The quality of the connection is largely beyond my control. In this particular session, one of the other students had a very noisy connection with some home renovation going on next door. Despite muting his microphone repeatedly, his noise still disrupted the session.

What can I do about all of this?

What could you reflect on to help your teaching and work?

First, if I were able to see this woman again and try to help her enjoy her next experience, I would try to adjust her expectations. While she should expect a quality teacher who cares whether she learns, she is unwise to expect a teacher’s full attention if she in unwilling to pay for that privilege. Her expectation of speaking time may have been incorrect.

Unmet expectations are at the root of most conflict.

Second, I would want to help the woman to find the correct person to blame. As the teacher, I cannot control the hammering from someone’s next door neighbor in China. This is simply beyond my ability. To blame me for this is to misplace blame.

Misplaced blame leads to frustration for everyone involved.

Finally, I want to maintain a healthy perspective for myself. This was one session and one woman. My income for the day is above my target. There are, too use a cliché, other fish in the sea. There will be more classes, more students and more money.

Keeping a healthy perspective on problems prevents them growing in my mind.

What about you?

Can you help your clients adjust their expectations so they feel satisfied or even thrilled?

Can you help your customers place blame fairly so problems get resolved efficiently?

Can you maintain a healthy perspective on problems for the sake of your own mental health?

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