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Sometimes marriage is like working in a retail store. It definitely has its challenges. And if you want to improve your marriage, you should look at it from the standpoint of a customer service professional.
In retail, there’s an adage that states, “the customer is always right.” However, I’m sorry–they’re not. Even so, you have to treat them like they are.
However, in marriage, your spouse becomes “that” customer. You feel like they expect you to believe they are always right. They can make it seem like they expect you to meet every one of their needs, no matter what the situation is.
The Demanding Customer
My husband works in a big box store. A demanding customer and he may have a conversation that goes sort of like this:
Customer: (yells) Hey!
Husband: Are you talking to me?
Customer: Yeah. I need help.
Husband: Well, I’m helping this customer here. I’ll be with you in a few minutes.
Customer: I just want to know where the Acme Widgets are.
Husband: Just a mome…
Customer: Can’t you just tell me where they are?
Husband: Aisle 21, bay 5, halfway down on the left.
Customer: Can you show me?
Husband (in head): Sure, I’ll drop everything and walk halfway across the store to a department that I don’t work in.
Husband: (out loud): Of course. When I finish with this customer.
Customer: Never mind. (Walks off in a huff)
Customer: (returning from the other side of the store) They’re not there.
Husband: Yes. They are.
Customer: No, they’re not. You have to show me.
(Husband finishes with other customer and walks the angry customer to Aisle 21, bay 5, and looks halfway down on the left.)
Husband (out loud): See, they are right there.
Husband (in head): Just like I told you, stupid.
Customer: Oh. I didn’t see them. (picks one up and stomps away)
Husband (out loud): You’re welcome.
You have to say a lot of things in your head when you work in retail. Why? Why not just say it out loud? Because you’ll lose your job, that’s why. You have to remember what you know about customer service. And some days, you need to up your game. Dealing with demanding customers is hard.
Dealing with a demanding spouse can be difficult, too. But if you really want to improve your marriage, you need to find how to deal with it. Do you want to lose your job as a husband or a wife? No? Then you need to up your game.
The Demanding Spouse
When your spouse has a complaint, you can learn how to deescalate the situation and solve it calmly from some of these qualities that the best customer service employee possess.
Retail employees are told to pay attention to their customers so they can understand exactly what the customer wants, even if they have trouble explaining it.
Sometimes we as human beings have trouble expressing what we want, especially if it’s something close to the heart.
Pay attention to all the feedback you get from your spouse. They may not exactly say what they are frustrated about, but they will give you clues. Pay attention to patterns in things your spouse says that can lead you to find any more significant issues.
Ability to Read Customers
Being able to understand a customer’s body language and tone of voice helps those who work with them develop a relationship. They learn what signs to look for and listen to. Being aware of those cues lets them see how it is best to proceed. Being unaware can lead to losing a sale.
You don’t want to misread the signs your spouse gives off either. The consequences will be worse than those of missing a sale.
Look for body language. If you see that your spouse has furrowed brows or a facial expression that doesn’t match what they are saying, or if your partner is touching their neck while they talk, you may need to make a concerted effort to figure out what is wrong. Unhappy people give off those types of cues that will help you identify issues if you pay attention to them.
If you want to read more about body language, here’s a great resource to check out.
A good customer service person knows how to keep a situation from escalating. A good spouse can do the same thing. If your partner is getting upset and the situation seems to be getting heated, you can de-escalate it by trying to keep a neutral facial expression and a calm voice.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Plan for Confirmed Customer Satisfaction
Someone in retail sales makes sure the conversation ends with a positive feeling from the customer. They want to make sure the customer is satisfied.
What if you ended every one of your disagreements or tense conversations with your spouse by making sure they are satisfied with the outcome? Neither party should be bitter or think they are not appreciated.
While a salesman tries to see the customers point of view about the incident that upset them, a good spouse will do the same. Really try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view, and think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes.
Incorporating some of these ideas when your spouse has a “customer service complaint,” is one way to address issues without being drug into a name-calling match or having grudges held against you.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8
What happens then, when you are the one with a complaint?
The Best Customers
Of course, you never treat your spouse like the demanding customer, right? Well… maybe sometimes, huh?
If you want to keep your marriage vows forever, you might want to take some of these tips for being a good customer and apply them to your marriage.
Separate the Person from the Performance
When customers accuse their salesperson of being incompetent because a mistake was made, they are definitely overreaching. I’m not saying there aren’t any incompetent salespeople in stores all over the world, but there are fewer than some customers would think.
The same thing goes for spouses. There are people out there who would have you think that all people of the opposite sex are ____ (insert negative adjective here). But that’s an unfair generalization.
Nobody is perfect. I think we can all admit to times in the past when we were mean, rude, or unreasonable. Just because we had an episode where we behaved badly, does not mean we are mean, rude, or unreasonable people.
When your spouse does something that seems to fall into that category, remember to make the distinction between the action they took and their overall character.
Don’t Make Threats
You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Remember that idea when you are a customer at your friendly neighborhood department or box store. Customers who treat the salespeople with respect are more likely to be happy with the outcome of their visit.
Remember that saying as a spouse too. If you want or need something from your spouse, making threats is not a healthy way to get it. A common intimidation tactic is to tell them you are going to leave them and get a divorce. Threatening the other person forces them to trust you less. And that won’t get you anywhere when you are trying to solve a problem.
Making threats doesn’t work for any relationship. So before jumping into this manner of speaking to your spouse, stop and decide if what you have to say is respectful and productive.
Adjust Your Expectations
There are customers at the store where my husband works who seem to believe the only thing he has to do is to wait on them. They are entirely dependent on him leading them by the nose to the answer to their question. Sort of like the imaginary customer I talked about at the beginning of this post. Sometimes, you have to be patient and understand that something else may be taking precedence at the moment. Don’t expect that they have just been standing around waiting for you to come to them with a question. Give them a little grace.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Your spouse needs grace too. Probably more than the salesman does. If they are not meeting your needs or living up to your expectations, then you either need to adjust your expectations to make them more reasonable or have a discussion about how you are feeling.
Give them a Chance to Solve the Problem
Whenever something happens to upset them, a good customer will give the company a chance to make it right.
Do the same for your spouse. Let them know what you need and provide them with an opportunity to make it right in your eyes. Remember though, your spouse is human, and no one is perfect. If something they are doing is a habit, it may take a while to stop.
Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.
Listen to the other person’s side and try to understand what they are saying. There may be an excellent reason for their behavior, and if you decide to see it through their eyes, it may make more sense.
After you understand their side, then it’s time to explain why it upset you so much. Then strive as a couple to end the conversation with a solution that makes everyone satisfied.
Jesus expects us to serve others.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35
Even though he never said it explicitly, I’m sure those “others” includes your spouse. Make it easy for your spouse to serve you. Don’t be “that” customer that causes your spouse to become on edge the moment you walk in the house.
So whether you are the one in the relationship doing the complaining or the one that feels attacked, these common customer service traits can help you reduce the conflict in a civilized, mature way. Conflict is part of a forever marriage. You can’t avoid it, but you can make sure that you are giving your spouse the respect and grace he or she needs when trying to solve the problem.
Come back next week when we take a look at marriage mentors, what they do, and why you may need one.