Attitude and Approach

Those people who know me are well aware of the fact that I use sarcasm with some regularity. And, if you pay close attention, you may even find glimpses of said sarcasm well-hidden within many of my posts. O.k., well, perhaps not so well-hidden. However, when I am working, especially in a Nightclub or Bar Environment, that sarcasm (especially when talking to Patrons) disappears. Why? First and foremost it is counterproductive. Second, most people don’t understand sarcasm, especially when directed at them and most definitely not when they are intoxicated.

Intoxicated individuals are much like your 6-7 year old niece or nephew: they understand only basic commands, ask questions over and over, and don’t like to follow rules. This is not because they are bad people (although I have met some 6 year olds who have made me question their motives) but instead because their brains – the patrons, not the 6 year olds – are not working to their full capacity. So what is one to do when dealing with a 6 year old in an adult body? Be nice.

Every Nightclub Security Staffer that I know, as well as anyone who considers themselves a truly patriotic American has seen the epic cinematic masterpiece: ROADHOUSE. It’s well-developed plotline, impeccable acting, carefully groomed mullets, and intensely realistic fight scenes should have placed it on the list of top 100 films of all time. Alas, it was bypassed by such films as Schindler’s List and Citizen Kane. There is one scene in particular that should resonate deeply with every individual working the door, floor, VIP booth, or hallway.

Your attitude and approach will always dictate a Patron’s response to you. EVERY TIME. PERIOD. Charge up to a table with a scowl and grunt and at the very least you will encounter confusion, if not outright hostility.  But a calm demeanor, a smile, and a little empathy will get you everywhere.

You understand, don’t you?

A little empathy goes a looooooooong way. You understand that the guy at the bar who is falling over drunk had a bad day and needed those 10 shots. You get the fact that the sorority girl’s sister slept with her ex-boyfriend and chose to get black-out drunk. You’ve absolutely had to make the decision to tell your wife that your secretary is pregnant with your love-child, but not before a few stiff drinks at the bar. Right? Well, maybe not, but if you can try to see where the intoxicated/angry Patron is coming from it can help you to guide them to your way of thinking.

Phrases like:

  • “I apologize, but…”
  • “I see you point, however…”
  • “I agree with you, unfortunately…”
  • “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on…”
  • “Slow down and let me know how I can help…”
You  are probably not on the side of the person doing the wrong, but if you let them think that you understand where they are coming from, it will help you to get them where you need to take them: out the Front Door. I’ve had numerous conversations with intoxicated individuals while walking them to the exit and had them out on the sidewalk before they even realized what was going on. Ultimately, people just want to be heard and if you give them that chance, they will be happy to head your way.

Say “No” with a smile.

It is possible. Even better, say “No” with a smile and a head shake. Even betterer (yeah, that’s improper English), say, “No, I’m sorry, but…” with a smile. Most people who are being rude or dismissive – or those who are downright hostile – are expecting a negative response. The hostile ones are BEGGING for an angry response. This gives them the ammunition to turn up the volume, increases their anger (misdirected or not), and maybe even helps them consider turning to violent behavior. Don’t play into their hand. A smile and a “No” can be incredibly disarming. If nothing else, it may short circuit their thought process enough for you to assess the situation and tailor your subsequent actions.

Don’t forget!

Walk away from the action…or walk into it.

Angry Patrons (especially when intoxicated) tend to focus their emotions on the person directly in front of them: cocktail waitress, doorman, bartender. If you just ejected someone from an establishment, you are the person to whom they will direct their anger. If you can’t calm them down (and chances are you won’t be able to, after all you did kick them out) just walk away and let the Door Staff handle the problem. The same goes for if you start to get a little hot under the collar. Have someone take over for you. This misdirection removes the target of the Patron’s anger, which helps to distract them, which helps to calm them down, which helps to…you get the picture

One of the reasons I like to have Backup during incidents is that the second or third Staffer at the scene can play “Good Cop” and soothe the Patron’s frayed nerves. If you see a co-worker getting heated, step in and ask the Patron, “Is there anything I can do?” while the other Staffer walks away. This deflection will focus their attention on you, which will help to calm them down. If you can get someone from yelling to talking, that is a win and gives you something to work with.

Granted,there are times when no matter how nice you are, people will just be plain rude. But in my experience, approaching everyone with a smile, a nod, and a greeting (“Hello, Sir, Miss, Ma’am”) works wonders. Try it next time you work. Attitude and Approach will dictate the ease or difficulty of your job.

As The Schwayze says, “Be nice.”

Until next time…

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