Finally, part 3 of my dealing with difficult people in the world of Credit Counselling and how one must always keep a level head, never judge but don't put up with any shenanigans (I love that word) and always keep some nice smelling air fresheners around. After talking about smells and ills along with drunks, pervs and tears, I am at the final 3 of my top 10 so, let's get down to it...
1. ANGRY..."YOU HAVENT SEEN ME WHEN I'M ANGRY"- Oh the people who come in with a huge chip on their shoulder and think it is perfectly fine to take it out on the unsuspecting Credit Counsellor. They will huff and puff (not H & R's Puff and Stuff), roll their eyes and do the stare. The stare is their way of trying to use intimidation to get what they want...hahaaaaaa. This never works on me and, in fact, I will call them on it and tell them they are in my office seeking my help. I recall a couple sitting in my office, who had a huge debt but owned a home with a lot of equity(value of home minus what is owing equals the equity or asset). Their situation was not going to change for the better, they could not do a bankruptcy or a Consumer Proposal(pay only part of the debt) or do our payment program (Pay all of the debt). They could not remortgage so their only recourse was to sell the home. The wife was listening but her husband was sitting in the chair ready to go all Chuck Norris and when I mentioned they needed to sell the home explaining why, like a Steven Savant, er, Seagal, he flung out of his seat, thrust his arm across my desk and tried to grab for my throat. I, naturally, flung back my chair, looked at him and told him to get out of my office. He left but his wife remained sobbing. She explained all the issues they had been dealing with the past 5 years and she knew the best option was to sell the home. He came back, apologizing for his rude behaviour and I told him he was lucky I did not call the police but continued to explain my reasons and why other options were not open. This was the worst I ever dealt with and, for some reason, I was not scared but pissed! I have also dealt with the many people who blame the government for their debt, their ex's, their parents, neighbours, Jimmy Hoffa....Ughh...it is never their fault. so what should one do?
A. Learn Judo and drop them like in a Jackie Chan movie?
B. Take out my hammer (you think I'm kidding that I don't have a hammer nearby) and let them see stars like Wily E. Coyote?
C. Turn into Miss. Prissy from Gone With the Wind and go on my hands and knees saying I don't know nuttin 'bout birthin' no babies.
D. Understand that anger is a defense to the stresses they are enduring, be understanding but be authoritative and tell them to leave if they make you uncomfortable or fearful.
Of course it's D and, I would add, never show fear because they need to respect you and the information you are presenting to them. They need to know intimidation will not work but you can still give excellent information, advice and options even if they are options they don't want to hear.
2. WAR OF THE ROSES AKA..MARITAL ISSUES- Oh, you know you are in trouble when you go out to meet your clients and they are sitting at opposite ends of the waiting room. They come in with air so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw! The body language is enough to tell you that they can't stand each other and would be willing to drop kick their partner across the ocean. You know you are in for something special when they give each other snide remarks with the remarks usually coming from the gal and the guy telling her to shut her yap. This makes for such an endearing session that my ears perk up knowing entertainment will be coming my way. I had one such couple who could not do much more than argue over every expense, asset, income and debt I asked about. It became so destructive that I literally placed my hand in between their faces telling them "Time Out". Yes, I did get some anger spit on my fingers which I made sure to use hand sanitizer right after. I told them that if they continue in this fashion that they must leave as the session was not productive. They settled down and I was able to give information to them before they left in a huff. so what does one do?
A. Tell them they are hopeless morons and get out of my office?
B. Give them each a gun and have them walk 10 paces before turning around and fire?
C. Agree with one of the spouses, just to rile the other spouse up?
D. Listen to each, but, if they become argumentative with each other or you, state in a firm voice that there will be no arguments in the office and that they can leave. Inform them that you will not judge but provide the best financial care to their situation.
Well, you know the answer, which is D. If you ever have someone who becomes disruptive where you are fearful or the session may get out of hand, you have the right to cancel the session and explain they can come back when they are calmer. Whenever a person is angry at their spouse to the point where they have lost control, it will not help to discuss their finances because they are not listening. If they are angry but keep everything in check, remember that anger is an emotion that should not be judged but listened to, to understand their feelings. I had a couple, married for 37 years, where his wife had a major gambling addiction. They were heavily mortgaged plus she owed $137,000 in credit card and credit line debt. He entrusted his income to her and all the expenses and never asked about the finances. She was very guilt ridden and he was exceptionally good despite learning about all of this the night before they came into my office. I felt bad for both because she was a sweet person and he, too was a decent man. She had called the addiction help line and he was going to go for counselling. I gave them their options which amounted to bankruptcy and loss of their home. Why judge 2 people when the loss is so great? They need an understanding ear and voice and, to this day, I wonder what happened to them.
3. CHILDREN OF THE CORN
Many people bring their kids into our agency and into my office. Some kids are good but others...many, are possessed by the devil incarnate. They scream, touch everything, have temper tantrums, crawl everywhere and one particular snot-nosed brat pulled my computer cords unhooking my computer. If there was a big pot of boiling water somewhere, I would have eaten well that night....just kidding...well, maybe not:). I can deal with kids that bump their heads on my desk and cry because it hurts, I can deal with kids who start getting fidgety near the end of the session because their patience is wearing thin now. Hey, I can even deal with moms who whip out their boob to feed their baby but I can't abide the children of the corn. I swear I even saw some blond kid's eyes start to glow when he didn't get his way. What does one do?
A. Give the kids my hammer and tell them to have fun?
B. Scream at the kids to shut the hell up!?
C. Tell the kids to go play in the traffic?
D. Watch the children to make sure they don't pull the computer cords but request the parents to mind their children.
You would be surprised how many parents just don't watch their children and look at you when you ask the parents to mind their kids. I had one parent tell me that this was a way for their children to explore their inner selves. I informed her that her child can do that outside my office since we were to talk about finances. Many parents can't afford a babysitter so they must bring their children with them. I have asked the parents to reschedule when their children became too unruly because nothing positive could come from the counselling session. I find the best method is to not tell the child to sit and behave, this is the parent's job, so I ask the parents to take care of them. The parent usually does take action then. Remember, the parents are often just as frustrated so they normally understand if one must stop the session because the kids become too difficult. As for breastfeeding, I don't mind if the mom does this and most are discreet but I have had one that just let it all hang out. I tried my best not to look and continue talking about her finances. I also had one lady breastfeeding and the child was 5! He walked right over to her, lifted up her top and she let him..um...feed. I have to admit I lost my train of thought. See, I didn't even talk about dirty diapers...the small kids will tend to unload themselves while in my office but moms and dads usually apologize as they leave my stinky office.
So, finally, my top 10 list of difficult people. I hope this gives some insight into the world of counselling and dealing with a variety of human beings in the best possible way despite their difficult manners.