Handling Aggressive Callers
Perhaps it’s because I live in New York City. Fortunately, the aggressive caller is really a rare event. But, they do occur and it can be a challenge to handle the call. Some want to transfer their problem to a notary, others have exploitation in mind. The worst, due to upbringing or position are used to having things precisely their own way. As notaries we facilitate, within the bounds of reality and legality, their objectives. But, that does not require us to be manipulated.
Our fees are often a point of contention. Some, used to going to the bank and obtaining free services consider mobile notaries on Sunday to be appropriate replacements. Blithely ignoring the fact that expenses and time are incurred going to them, the often demand free or trivial charges. I have been told that as a “public servant” it is my “duty” to acquiesce to outrageous demands. Well, I for one am not any kind of “servant”. It’s a challenge to communicate with these people, but that is what we must do.
Don’t throw gasoline on the fire! An indignant or hostile response to aggression will only escalate the problem. Professional prize fighters know to deflect a punch, redirecting its energy away from them. In a similar manner providing an alternative (to you) notary service often works. I generally suggest the office of the County Clerk – in NY State they notarize at no charge. Be helpful. Even if you do not want this particular client; you can still provide them with some procedural information. It’s not legal advice to suggest they bring Govt. issued photo ID to some other notary. Being helpful will diminish the other persons rage.
Don’t take the bait to respond in kind. Assume a recording device is in use. Make sure that what you say on the phone is accurate and polite. Many “rabble rousers” will quickly disappear when they realize you are not taking the bait. A calm flat professional tone of voice, devoid of emotion works wonders. I have a standard reply for “semi-insulting” comments. I tell them “thank you for sharing your opinion”. Of course true screaming profanity receives an instant hang up.
I had one nut on a vendetta. That person called me 9 times, insisting that I explain in detail the procedure to process an Apostille. After the third call I started a log. With each subsequent call my only response was that I am logging the date and time and my request to not call again. Also, that I would file a criminal complaint for harassment with the police. Now I have Extreme Call Blocker software on the phone. Duds connect for half a second, and then the call is disconnected.
It’s all about being in control of the call; which of course starts with being in control of yourself. I have found that silence on my part often works well. Eventually they say “are you there”? A response of “I was listening carefully to what you had to say and was waiting for when you would give me an opportunity to respond”, politeness does defeat hostility.
There are many possible reasons that you cannot continue to remain on a hopeless call. Perhaps you have a call from France on hold, or you might be booked for the next few days. Generally, the less you say the better. Sometimes frankness works. One aggressive caller chided me for not having a walk in facility. “You are supposed to”. I responded my revenue would not pay Manhattan rent, it was just economically unfeasible. But, sometimes the “devil” on my shoulder gets the better of me. “The only way I could provide you a walk in facility is if you pay the rent!”
You might also like:
Unilateral commitments in the Notary profession