“But that’s not what’s happening,” I said feeling the irritation in my body and hearing it in my tone. I could tell that the poor customer service representative, who was trying her very best to help me, could feel it also.
I had called in to address a problem I was having with my new computer and my problem was just not being solved, at least not fast enough – read immediately – for me. I realized that old familiar pattern and for a moment reflected on all of the poor innocent and genuinely helpful customer service reps I had decimated over my career as telephone customer from hell. How many customer reps have I sent sobbing into their manager’s office seeking refuge and solace from the unreasonableness, rudeness and just “not niceness’ that I was.
Now there have been some customer service reps that were plain arrogant, incompetent or rude and some who were all of the above, but for the most part my experience with customer service reps has been saintly. Because I can be rude as well as impatient when the stuff “you” sold me doesn’t work, and dammit I demand satisfaction because this delay, this interruption is taking me away from all of the very important “stuff” that I have on my plate.
I’m not that bad really, but I tend in that direction and sometimes I come really close. I’m sure I must have been nominated for best actor in the role of jerk call of the day by more than one customer service rep.
On this day however, it registered that this sweet woman, was cheerfully doing her best to help me out with something that was not her fault. So at one point I said to her, “Tammy, before we go on, I want to acknowledge you for your patience and kindness in dealing with people like me.” She laughed. “Oh don’t worry about it,” she said, “I understand how frustrating it can be to have your computer not work.”
Thank you,” I said, “ but it’s one thing to say that because it’s your job, and quite another to actually be patient and understanding, when I’m being a smartass, so I want to make sure you know that none of this is directed at you and I really appreciate your help.”
Well this changed the whole atmosphere of the call. I lightened up and she glowed – I could tell in her voice. It became like a call with a good friend. While I waited for my computer to restart or execute commands we talked about the weather where she was, I told her I was in Trinidad, and she jokingly said that she would ask to personally deliver any replacement parts to my doorstep.
Just another example of the magic of acknowledgments, the simple act of accepting the existence of something to another or to yourself. I first acknowledged to myself that I was being an asshole and then I acknowledged same to Tammy while acknowledging how great she was being in the face of my subtle unpleasantness.
It was a different call after that.
Tammy, my new best friend, now had more freedom to be with me in my unpleasantness , and I, after acknowledging my unstatesmanlike behavior, became very pleasant even downright charming.
I still notice my triggered response of irritability on calls but at least I know I have the power to transform these calls by this simple act of acknowledgment. It’s a great way to take responsibility for my experience of the people I interact with every day.