When it comes to making money while having fun, there’s nothing like bartending. But as fun as the job can be, eventually it’s going to happen. A run-in with a nasty customer or co-worker is going to challenge your ability to keep your cool. Reacting to these situations may be fine in other jobs, but this is the world of hospitality. In our line of work, you’ve got to keep it together.
This happened to me recently. The bar was full and my guests were relaxed and having a good time. Suddenly, it began. One customer started ribbing me about something, I can’t remember what exactly. I laughed it off. God knows, I can occasionally dish it out in the spirit of fun, so I’d better be able to take it, right? A few minutes later, another customer teased me about something entirely different. Over the course of about ten minutes, I got knocked about again and again by mostly good-natured insults from the majority of my customers. It was like a fish tale, each insult building on the one before, but instead of being about fish, it was all about making me the butt of their jokes. With each barb, the smile on my face faded. Normally, I’m quick-witted enough to handle these situations, but that night I’d just received some bad news about a very sick relative. Then one of my longtime customers blurted out the biggest cut down of the night, which caused the whole bar to laugh, at my expense.
You know how in the cartoons, when Yosemite Sam gets mad, steam blows out his ears? That’s exactly how I felt. My patience was officially gone for the evening and I was furious and red-faced with embarrassment. So what to do?
I could have lashed out, letting them all know they’d gone too far. But doing so would have created a scene. I work hard to create a festive, carefree environment for my guests and blowing my stack would certainly have undone all of this. My first instinct was to reach for a drink but I’m not allowed to drink on the job. Besides, that’s using alcohol as a crutch. Nobody wants to be known as the bartender who gets sloppier than his guests.
What I did was bite my tongue. I quietly asked a co-worker to watch the bar for a few minutes. I excused myself and headed to the bathroom to get myself together. Trust me, had there been a punching bag in the stall, I would have used it. It took me two or three minutes to get my composure. More than anything, I knew I had to keep my act together. Mostly, I didn’t want anyone to know that the customer had gotten to me. Bar folk are mostly good-natured, but if you admit any kind of weakness to them, one day, when you least expect it, it’s going to get thrown back in your face. So with all of this in mind, I sucked it up, put on a big old smile and came back out.
So how can you keep your cool the next time someone upsets you behind the bar?
1) Breathe. Tension makes your body lock up, which will hinder your ability to breathe properly, making you feel even more stressed-out. It’s important to keep oxygen flowing to your brain so you can logically think yourself through the stressful situation. Take some deep breaths until you feel better.
2) Disassociate. It’s important to get your brain immediately off the situation. Do something else. Find something to clean. For me, it’s important to get back into my routine like nothing happened. I went up to one of my favorite customers, a guy who’s always polite and easy going, and just started up a conversation. It was a struggle at first, my insides were still in knots, but after a few minutes the anger started to subside. By the time I’d made it back to the customer who had insulted me, I was feeling better.
3) Focus on the money. Chances are, if you’re in a tense situation, it’s probably because the bar is busy. Being busy is good. That means you’re making money. Focus on the cash you’ll be taking home. Always makes me feel better.
4) Channel it. Find a healthy way to use that tension. The next day, treat yourself to something nice or run an extra mile. Funnel the energy into a hobby. Keep a journal in which you cast some of your more nasty customers in sadistic stories. Channel your frustration in a way that speaks to you.
Bartending can be full of stressful moments, but you don’t have to let them get the best of you. With practice, you’ll be able to handle even the tensest of situations.
**’bartending baby meme’ courtesy of thunderup_14 at Redditt.com**
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