Tonight’s UBC topic suggestion, “who do you admire?” is actually a subject close to my heart.
I often take time to talk about people I admire here, sometimes naming names, while others just admiring them collectively. I tend to admire people for a variety of reasons, but most often because they set extraordinary examples for me on lessons I struggle with.
One such lesson is kindness. Too many years of working in a man’s field and a male-dominated industry toughened a skin already the consistency of rhinoceros hide from long years of single parenthood and the joys of trying to love alcoholics. Needless to say, my kindness quotient was so far into the negative, I didn’t hold much hope of ever digging it out. Despite my tendency to drift back to those tried-and-true ways when the going gets tough, several women in my life have shown by example that it is entirely possible to be a strong, independent woman, not of the doormat persuasion and still be kind.
Not only have these women developed successful careers, often in male dominated industries, but they’ve raised strong, confident, ambitious children and have loving, charming, supportive mates.
Some have even shown me that it is entirely possible to be kind to someone who irritates the snot out of you, smiling sweetly and making them feel special without losing a piece of yourself in the process. In fact, they seem to be more just by being kind when the inclination was to be rude.
As I’ve watched and learned the last few years, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. But let me set the stage, first.
Each of us finds ourselves in the position, every now and again, of having to contact customer service to resolve an issue with an account. Often it is the phone company, a utility company or a cable company, but it could be almost anything. Often, we’re already annoyed, if not angry when we make that call, and having to sit on hold listening to a perky voice tout the benefits of their product, at least for me, tends to set my teeth on edge. When a human finally answers the phone, my first hope is that English is at least their native tongue. Needless to say, by the time said human answers my call, I’m even more cranky than when I began. Here is where kindness plays a huge part. It would be very easy to take my irritation out on the first person I talk to, but frankly, those folks aren’t paid enough to be the recipients of rude or angry behavior. Yet, there was a time when I would shoot those messengers, and believe me, it doesn’t get you very far. In fact, even when I don’t shoot the first messenger, I can still get someone who will put me in hold hell now and then, simply because I didn’t like the answer they gave me, and asked for someone higher up the food chain.
I say this because I had an issue with Paypal this week, and the first person I got did exactly that. I am happy to say that when I called back today, the people I spoke to were much more willing to let me speak to someone higher up, and the second escalation gave me the results I wanted, if not a little more. (a little side note here, Customer Service people sometimes think they know everything, including what their bosses are and are not allowed to do. As an accounting professional, I tend to take issue with someone who tells me that their system is incapable of issuing a credit or reversing a payment. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but anyone with accounting background is going to know that it is all about permissions!) At any rate, the point I’m trying to make here is that treating those folks kindly and respectfully will usually make them more cooperative and likely to give you someone with more authority (or permissions, if you will) who can and often will respond positively to a reasonable request.
While my natural tendency would be to not-so-politely explain the hierarchy of permissions to one who told me that what I want can’t be done, I’ve found it far more effective to follow the examples of my much kinder friends, and remain polite and respectful, keeping comments like “Moron!” and “Imbecile! Stop wasting my time and give me your boss!” kept buried well beneath what might be a falsely calm exterior. That archaic saying “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” still holds true today.
I cannot even imagine being a customer service rep who has to sit on the phone all day and speak to angry customers who might just take out their ire on the first person they speak to. To me, that is like a hundred bad days all rolled into one. No matter how much training they receive in defusing a volatile situation, some of that has to hurt. People do remember how you made them feel far longer than they’ll remember what you said. So I’ve learned through a great deal of trial and error that I’d much rather be remembered as someone who was kind under duress than horrific over something rather inconsequential.
I think it’s pretty simple, really:
- People respond best to kindness
- People like it when you address them by their name (I learned this from a man I dated briefly. Most store clerks and cashiers wear a name tag. They address us by name, shouldn’t we return the favor?)
- Everyone wants to be treated like they matter.
How hard is it to suck up our anger over a situation which it’s very unlikely it was caused by someone who is trying to help us resolve it? Those times when I did rake someone over the coals were, to say the very least, extremely unsatisfactory on all levels.
To the women who continue to teach me kindness, whether they realize it or not, I love and admire you all, and appreciate the example you set far more than you’ll ever know. Thank you so much, to Dezi, Judy, Lorna, Barbara, Leslie, Kay, Candy, and probably more than a dozen others who I may have lost track of, but know that the influence and the lesson remains. But for you, I would still be an angry, cranky woman who wondered why things never went her way, instead of a joyful, happy one who has everything going her way! All it took was a little kindness!
My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for all of the kind people who have been put in my path, in my life. I am a much better person for their influence.
2. I am grateful for interesting blog topics on a night when I didn’t have one of my own.
3. I am grateful for the process of writing which allows my mind to empty so it can slow down for a few hours each night.
4. I am grateful for my daughter who, despite the miles between us, is still very much a part of my life, and I, hers.
5. I am grateful for abundance; kindness, sharing, loving, growing, learning, joy, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.