How Conversational Agility Can Turn an Angry Customer into a Brand Advocate

In this article we examine Judith E Glaser’s concept of Conversational Agility. This is the 5th pillar of her Conversational Essential philosophy.

You will learn how to reframe, refocus and redirect a conversation. Just like gymnastics, but with words! You will even learn how to use it to turn an angry customer into an advocate.

What is Conversational Agility?

How good are you at moving yourself and others from being defensive to partnering? Or moving them from closed-minded to open? Or transforming them from unhelpful thinking to helpful?

Some people are naturally talented at being able to reframe, refocus and redirect people’s stories to achieve a more positive outcome. If you do have this talent, then congratulations! What you are doing from a neuroscientific perspective, is creating a mind shift from primitive brain thinking to higher-level brain or prefrontal cortex thinking.

Others have learned this skill through coaching and self-development over time.

Our Stories Shape Our Outcomes

We use words to create the stories to describe our world. This lets people know what we need. It lets us express when we are happy or sad. Sometimes we get stuck in a story that keeps us from getting something we want and need. Unless we change the story we will never change the result.

A workplace example of this might be a Manager who feels the need to micro manage his staff. This may be the result of a situation in his earlier career where he felt a loss of control over quality of output. His story is the need for control.

His team however, start to feel like if he is going to do the job himself, or redo their work, why should they bother. This is their story and is a result of his micromanagement. It becomes a vicious cycle.

For productivity to increase both stories have to change. The manager has to trust the staff and their output and the team need to trust that the manager won’t redo their work. Both sides of the story need to be on board with the change.

Reframing, refocusing and redirecting are all very useful tools to help us change our story.


Reframing helps you to give a difficult situation a new meaning by finding more positive and constructive ways to view and experience it. It shifts the conversational space from a feeling of conflict to a feeling of common ground and shared resolution.

One of my favourite reframes relates to making mistakes. A fixed minded person believes mistakes are bad and are not to be tolerated. A growth minded person reframes mistakes to be essential in order to learn.


Refocusing is about being able to defocus on what is making you stuck and to refocus on a completely different yet connected part of the story. Refocusing can help you move from stuck to possibility.

Consider the example of a slow, overly fastidious colleague. Try shifting your focus from being frustrated with the speed of their work. Refocus instead on the possibility that they are striving for excellence. This can help you to more positively address how you go about achieving change.


Redirecting takes people from stuck to a space where they can see possibility.

Redirecting helps a person feel greater trust. This is because it sends a message that “you care enough to help them see a different path.”

By redirecting attention from your current story’s narrow focus, you can uncover a broader perspective. This will present a new and different way to view and interpret your story.

And Here’s Our Angry Customer

Turning an angry customer to a raving fan is the ultimate challenge in mastering the art of Conversational Agility!

Here is a sample script of suggested responses using conversational agility to help you deal with an angry customer.

1. Redirect

Where the client goes from feeling defensive to feeling heard.

“I can hear this has been very frustrating for you. It is understandable the way this played out that you would feel this way. I’m really sorry that you have had this experience with our service.”

2. Refocus and Reframe

In this scenario you take the complaint and ask for their insight as to the root cause of the problem. This helps them feel like they are partnering you in coming to an amicable solution.

“I am very interested to understand your experience. This will make sure we are able to sort this out for you as quickly as possible and prevent it from occurring again.

Can you share with me a little more about what you thought lead to this oversight in communication?”

And then you refocus the Complaint to Determine a Solution with:

“What would you like to see happen to make this situation right for you?

“I have a couple of solutions I’d like to offer.” And then you provide 2 or 3 possible solutions to the problem. You go on to ask “What are your thoughts about these?”

As Henry Ford so wisely said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you are right.

I wonder if you have a “can’t” story? I know I have a few! How will you use conversational agility to turn your “can’t” into a maybe?

I challenge you to try using Conversational Agility the next time you are dealing with a difficult customer. I would love to hear how it went!

If you are considering the development plans and training requirements of your team for 2019, consider an investment in Conversational Intelligence. It really can have an impact on company culture, customer experience and staff engagement. I’m taking booking for corporate and allied health professional training now. You can get in touch with me here.

Hi there! I’m Jacqui Snider and I’m here to help you and your business grow and flourish.

As an Occupational Therapist and Workplace Culture Coach and Trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals and organisations develop better home and workplace practices that everyone enjoys being part of. With more than 35 years of coaching experience, I have personally coached and trained in excess of 350 leaders, bringing about transformational change in both individuals and teams.

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