Once in a while, out of the blue, you’re surprised with an uncomfortable, unsettling and difficult situation. You may respond emotionally, and later stew over the aftermath. When in business, this can have a negative impact on what your customers say about you, as word of mouth tends to spread.

It would be great if you could press a do-over button, but even better than a do-over is not reacting in a way you’ll regret later. Here are some steps to help you handle difficult situations better.

  1. Acknowledge your emotions, stay calm, think and assess the situation.
  2. Gain perspective – give your difficulty a number on a scale of 1 to 10.
  3. Stay positive – think or write down some possible solutions.
  4. If necessary, find a place that gives you reassurance and peace – it may be a park or house of worship.
  5. Look for support from family, friends, co-workers and other professionals. Ask them what they think about the situation from an outsider’s point of view.
  6. Seek joy and laughter – play your favorite music, watch funny movies and surround yourself with positive people.
  7. Create and follow through on a simple plan:
    • State a goal – for example, I will stay calm.
    • Turn your goal statement into a mantra and keep saying it.
    • Develop a list of strategies to reach your goal – for example, put on a set of headphone for music, avoid tense situations, start counting backward from 100 in your head, and any other strategy that is appropriate for the situation.
    • You may need to write a plan to handle larger problems – For example, let’s say you have a customer that was unhappy with your business, and is telling people not to purchase from you. Develop a list of strategies such as calling the customer directly to assist with the problem, providing a refund and a gift certificate to apologize, posting in response to public social media posts from the customer asking her to contact you directly so you can help, etc. Think of things that will show that you are responsive and that you care, while understanding that you may not be able to resolve the customer’s issue or change her opinion. You are also managing what the people observing the situation think.
    • Check off your list of strategies as you slowly resolve your difficulties to help you stay positive and on track.
  8. After resolving the situation you may want to explore how it was handled, how you can improve the way it was handled, and review valuable lessons you’ve learned.

In business and in life there will always be difficult situations. Some will be small, and some may be devastating. The key is to always try to stay positive, think, assess the situation and trust that you’ll come up with the best solution at the moment. The more you learn from difficult situations the better you’ll be at resolving them and achieving a happier life, as well as a more successful business.