If you find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with challenging guests or where you feel you are being verbally threatened, it is best to stay calm and not to overly react as this could fuel the situation further. In this instance, if you feel that you are a target of emotional or verbal abuse your objective should be to defuse the situation. Try to understand why the guest is irate and find a solution to the outburst as quickly as possible by politely questioning the guest to get a better understanding as to what has triggered the outburst. EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and SQ (Social Intelligence) is pivotal when working onboard yachts not only to effectively deal with guests but also crew. Crew need to learn how to be an expert in managing very challenging and, at times, difficult guests. We recognise the need for training around emotional intelligence in delivering a world class service as such we have tailored programs especially for this in the form of coaching and face to face training.

Any action that you think will compromise your safety should not be taken. Your wellbeing and safety comes first no matter who the guest is. Your captain should fully support you on this. If something doesn’t feel right to you, I reiterate,  don’t do it. If you find yourself in this situation, a potential course of action would be to advise the guests that you would need to consult with the Captain before proceeding and that you will get back to them with regards to their request as soon as possible.

How to Manage Difficult Guests

Should a crew member be threatened with physical violence there are definitely strategies you can employ before things escalate further. If you are out of sight from other crew and someone is being physically aggressive towards you, use your radio to call for support. You need to think ahead and determine how you can safely exit the situation without putting yourself in harms way. Speak calmly to the potential aggressor, do not inflame the situation through your verbal responses, be aware of your own body language and endeavour to control the situation by clarifying the cause of the problem, agreeing to aspects of the problem and stating that you intend to resolve the issues raised as quickly as possible.  This would allow you to connect up the chain of command by calling for assistance via radio at the same time.

Displaying a calm assuredness can go a long way towards defusing difficult situations.  Showing understanding can also relieve tensions as can the provision of immediate solutions that could alleviate the problem.  However, should you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe, the first point of call would be the captain, if you don’t feel comfortable to approach the captain turn to another crew member in a senior position. If the problem isn’t addressed in house, then I would turn to PYA, Nautilus international, MCA or the yacht management company.

In this industry, it so important not to take things personally as it will leave you feeling completely depleted of your energy. I know this might sound more difficult to achieve in practice but try and elicit some compassion towards those who leave a negative impression on you, whether it be guests or crew. I think that there is a lot of truth in the saying “hurt people, hurt people.” If you adopt this mindset then working with challenging guests will become a lot easier. This interview is also published in Superyacht news.