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Inspirational Short Stories, Issue #015 -- Anger
May 19, 2016
I work in customer service, and like my job even if my dream would be to be able to write full time.
I enjoy conversing with people and helping them in finding solutions to their problems. Usually the phone calls end up with me and the customer chatting like old friends. I can be “official” if necessary, of course, but through the years I have noticed that people really like to speak to a “real” person, not just an official answering machine who reads answers from a paper (or computer screen). I admit I dislike the forced “How can I help you?” customer servants are taught to say at the beginning of each call. Almost every time when I hear that sentence, it doesn’t sound real. It sounds forced, and sometimes is even accompanied by a sigh. And I admit I never use it…
So, people like to meet a friendly person, be it face to face or on the phone. If your tone of voice (and expression) tells that you are genuinely interested in the other person, and really want to help them solve their problem, you can end up in a very fruitful and interesting discussion, after which both of you feel a bit better.
But not always so. I have met a few very very angry people during the 15 years I’ve been working in customer service. The last one happened two weeks ago and really stopped me thinking why our communication did not work out. I did not have much experience of such situations, as this case was only number four during those 15 years. So not a bad ratio, really.
And then I found one common factor. All these four angry people were old men. The gender itself does not matter, but they were of the generation badly affected by the hardships of World War II. Only lately has there been discussion here about how the war time traumas still affect older people. And they may have been such people - perhaps not fighting in the war themselves, but having lost their fathers, or if the father came back from the war, he was a bitter, angry, changed person.
They seemed to be provoked by a kind voice. All of these old men clearly tried to stomp the happy person to the ground. And to me this means they could not cope with a happy person as that reminded them so clearly how they themselves were not happy. If you are deep inside a negative emotion, you simply cannot tolerate the opposite emotion. Anger and happiness... Depression and happiness… Pessimism and optimism…
And yet this kind of nail-spitting anger is a cry for help. These people feel so miserable it is spilling out and they target anyone who reminds them of what they are missing. They do not want to be reminded there is a happier world out there, because they do not believe they can find it.
But how to help someone who is so angry they are calling you, a person they have never met before, with names, screaming at you, and then later you hear that they have complained how utterly badly you treated them. When you know you did your very best to be kind and helpful?
To be honest – I don’t think there is much else to do but to keep your calm, and not be provoked. A person who seethes with anger is not ready to listen to your efforts to placate them. In customer service you can sympathize and say you understand the situation is not pleasant to them, but that you will try to help them. And leave it at that.
At some point they will calm down. You may never see that happen. And it doesn’t matter. Sure it can be nice when the customer calls back, asks to speak with you and apologizes. Yes, that has happened to me. At that point I have heard what their underlying problem had been, and then we may have a discussion about it, and when the call ends, we are on amicable terms again.
I remember one time when one of these four old men behaved so badly I had to inform him that I will put down the receiver if he is unable to discuss matters calmly. Eventually I had to do so (I think in my over 30 years at work life I have only done so twice). And the next time it was the man’s son who called to handle the issue that needed customer service. The son told me that his father had pancreatic cancer. And of course I now understood his anger. A cancer with a very bad prognosis. The feeling of utter helplessness at the unfairness of the disease. That yell of anger came from fear and desperation.
It is hard to accept the anger of people, especially if you are expected not to be affected by it in your job. No one likes being yelled at, especially for no reason. It is ok that you feel bad, if this happens to you. Just try to remember the angry person most likely has great stress, sorrow, depression or disappointment s/he is venting out. Understand this person’s humanness. You may hear later what the real problem was, and then it can all make sense to you.
And facing your own reaction to another person’s anger is a valuable lesson about how you value yourself. If it makes you feel that you don’t deserve this kind of behavior, good for you! You know you value – and you also know the emotions this kind of treatment causes in you. And so, the next time you are very angry, you don’t revenge it on other people so easily.
I wish you a pleasant, calm day!
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Leena Maria is an Egyptologist and a writer. On Inspirational Short stories she writes inspirational short stories that uplift the reader. You will find her stories and positive attitude tips at http://www.inspirational-short-stories.com and information about her books and writing process at leenamaria.com
This article was first published in Inspirational Short Stories newsletter.
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