In the "new normal" created by the coronavirus pandemic, the media has been on the alert for any changes in social behavior. Yukan Fuji (Sept 19) thinks it's found one.
These are people known as "gray claimers." Perhaps you have seen them make their appearance in restaurants, convenience stores or aboard public transport. Out of a sense of what they believe is righteousness, they engage staff in drawn-out harangues.
Recently, one began bellowing at a worker at a supermarket when he was informed that the store was complying with the law and charging for a plastic bag. The irate gentleman went on for what seemed like an interminable duration, going so far as to demand the employee apologize by assuming the dogeza position (kneeling and bowing in until the forehead touches the floor), and also threatening to take his objections to the local government office.
Yasumori Amano, director of the Japan Confectionery Better Business Association and compiler of the book "How to diffuse gray claimers by saying arigato!" describes a gray claimer thusly: "They initially do not appear to be making a claim, but when something bothers them, they make demands that exceed those that are reasonable, i.e., demands that enter the 'gray zone.' But to the bitter end they insist their assertion or complaint as being 'routine.'"
Typically, says Amano, gray claimers assume five distinct patterns. One is the "aggressive type," who attempts to intimidate his target while seeking to obtain some concession or gain. Then there's the "self-assertive type," who righteously adopts a logical claim which he drags out for an extended time. Next is "the perfectionist," who refuses to accept any compromise. And then there's the "already made up his mind" type who has decided in advance that no response will meet his expectations.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have spawned the fifth and newest variety of claimer, the so-called "stress-relief type." These hail from the ranks of people who had never been claimers before. Their "switch" is activated depending on the reaction of whoever they're dealing with, and they seem to revel in seeing their targets cringe or cower in response to what they say or how they act.
What makes the gray claimers so annoying is not that they attempt to make demands by pressing their opinion by adopting a sense of righteousness, but that they try to drag out their arguments for as long as they can.
"In the past, there were cases where matters could be settled reasonably; but consumers nowadays don't make the kind of demands for something that would incur a sense of obligation, so there are practically no points where they'll accept a compromise," Amano explains.
To deal with such individuals, Amano first of all suggests a technique whereby, when a customer appears to be agitated, the worker should advise him that the issue must be taken up with a manager. Or, the customer can be informed, "We will request the company to launch an investigation." In other words, shifting the claimer's target is the key to blunting his assault. Or in other words, the claim should be handled by the organization, and not by an individual staffer.
Hiromi Ikeda, a professor of social psychology at Kansai University, has been observing the pandemic for signs of change. She notes, "People are feeling tired and irritable from being shut in, or having to rely on remote communications. And I suppose some may be frustrated by their inability to deal with the demands of mastering computers."
"If people and companies are able to see eye to eye on things, they will mellow out," says Ikeda. "For communications to go well depends a wee bit on how speech or attitudes are displayed."© Japan Today