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Jun 25

Putting on a public face

Its Day 25 of 30 blog posts in 30 days challenge and I was reminded of what good poker faces librarians have when it comes to some days of dealing with our users.

One of our staff was at work, but feeling a little under the weather today and when she made a request of one of our users and received a snarky reply, she was snarky in response. This staff member is very genial normally, so it was out of character for her. When I caught up with her soon after, she said she knew as soon as she opened her mouth that it was the wrong thing, but it was too late.

The user didn’t make a complaint, but you wonder what impression she went away with.

On the other hand, when wearing our poker faces, we quite often manage to turn grumpy users into satisfied ones, just by remaining calm and working towards a mutually acceptable outcome.

Normally we can be ourselves, which is friendly, polite, open. Sometimes however, you just don’t feel like it, but its required for your job. We all have our ways of making the public face work when its so far from how we are feeling.

George Burns said “SincerityIf you can fake that, youve got it made.” I think he must have been thinking of people whose work involves serving others, like librarians. If we are to be successful, we really need to find the way to be sincere, when all we want to do is try to knock some sense into the very rude library user in front of us or curl up in a corner and leave the world behind.

For me, its a case of biting the bullet, putting the face into place, with maybe a bit more formality than usual and just getting down to it. Then taking a break when I need it, before it all gets too much.

So how do you copy with dealing with the public, when you just don’t feel like it?

6 comments

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  1. Steph

    I used to find walking out to the workroom, taking a few deep breaths, and talking it through with other staff members helped immensely. All of us had been in the same position as your staff member, and peer support was invaluable.

  2. Michelle McLean

    Thats very true. Taking a timeout can make the world of difference.

  3. CW

    I find that I get super-formal and super-polite when I really don’t feel like dealing with clients. Breaks are important. Also good to not beat yourself up when you’re feeling like this. It passes.

  4. Michelle McLean

    That’s a good thing to remember.

  5. liberrydwarf

    I do the super-formal super-polite thing too. Especially on the phone. They run out of steam eventually. And yes, a break after (even a tiny one) is crucial for closure, otherwise your next client will cop your mood even unintentionally!

  6. Michelle McLean

    A quick break is vital – just to give you time to vent away from the public and to calm down. It also gives your colleagues an opportunity to support you.

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