The Plot To Steal Joy: Day 9
Day 9 Unfolds:
When you’re having a bad day yourself and you decide to brighten someone else’s day by offering a smile and a friendly greeting but you’re met with an impatient service staff with a scowl on her face. It seems like your kind efforts in displaying a cheery countenance got smashed right back in your face. What do I do at that moment? My human nature wants to stop smiling (because I look like a complete idiot smiling at someone who refuses to return the gesture) and to ask politely, why are you behaving this unpleasantly to your customer? I would have done that, and I have done that before (asking a service staff to justify their attitude), because isn’t customer service about making the customer feel good and not lousy about themselves? She’s certainly making me feel far from fabulous.
But I controlled myself. Instead I took a deep breath and got on with the transaction. I didn’t ask her why she was rude to me. I imagined she has had a long day, her finances are in a mess, she is worried about several things, and she’s paid lower than she would have liked in this job. I paid for my purchase and left the store. Before I do, I took one last look at her bunched up gray hair and affirmed myself that she is indeed dealing with a load of unhappiness in her life, thus her response to her customers. It softened me and I regained my empathy for her.
I’m constantly reminded by Greek philosopher Plato’s wise words who reminded us to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
How do we regain empathy in this day and age for our fellow mankind regardless of their vocation and capacity, when our expectations of quality customer service is catapulted by high competition in the market place?
We regain empathy by understanding that everyone is a warrior in their own rights and they are each fighting a battle that others do not see. The least we can do is to offer each other the benefit of the doubt and continue to practice kindness as much as it is within our capacity to do so.
Notice that I say “practice kindness” - what this means is that it requires a conscientious and intentional choice on our part to be kind on a frequent basis. Practice requires deliberation and frequency - it’s something we do again and again till we become better at it. Kindness is not natural. What can I say? We’re born imperfect, and we have to work on our kindness. At least I do. So even when I don’t feel like it, especially when I’m in a bad spot myself, I got to remind myself daily to practice kindness. Kindness is a choice.
The score today: