Saturday, September 02, 2006

Kindness Is Painful

That's the impression I get from most people, be they customer service representatives, customers or random people you happen to speak to for no particular reason. It's easier, for most people, to assume that I'm some idiot who wants to eat their babies and react to me as if that was the case, then it is for them to assume that I want to know how to get to a certain road or building and have no map to tell me where that place is. Raise your hand if you've ever said something to a person you just met and had them freeze up and act like you're an idiot. My favorite question goes something like this: "What did I ever do to you?"

I especially remember the pain of kindness from when I worked in a photolab a couple years ago. It was very difficult for people to be nice to me. You know how you catch more flies with honey? Yeah, few people go by that rule. Most would rather make the person serving them feel absolutely dreadful before having to do something for them. Even Machiavelli would disagree with that take on how you treat other people.

What is the difficulty in just being nice to somebody? Why do we assume that everyone is out to take advantage of us and treat everyone like crap? I often wonder about this. It came to mind a lot the other day when my computer got moved to a different office a week ahead of schedule. I decided to be nice and let the guy move it because he was confused and had already moved half the stuff and did not want to put it back. I was annoyed, but I tried to thank him for his help in getting me set up on a different computer and finding the emails I had lost because I stupidly saved them to my old hard disk and did not have time to move them to a different file. My other co-workers, who got moved as well, were a lot less willing to be nice. Understandable, yes. However, it did not cost me a thing to be nice. Everyone has bad days and it was apparent that our IT department was having a bad day. Sometimes I mix things up and look like an idiot too. Why should I get mad when someone else does the same thing? They probably felt bad enough already and did not need my scathing criticism to make them feel worse. So, I did my best to stay out of the way and made sure that my computer worked before letting them get back to their regularly scheduled day.

The moral of the story: next time my computer breaks there will be happier people willing to fix it. The same goes for a lot of areas of work. I have been yelled at quite often as a customer service representative. Now, I am never one to sabotage someone's photos that they are paying for. But I do take pride in my work. If a person treated me like crap, I did not take pride in my work anymore. I normally did not bother to look at their photos, much less make sure they were not too dark or poorly centered. If they took bad photos, they got bad photos. Treating someone like crap to get what you want does nothing to motivate them to do good work.

Why does it hurt so much to be kind? After all, in the long run, you'll get better service if you're nice. I will conclude with another story. My alma mater's cafeteria serves fresh made omelets every Sunday and I used to get an omelet each week. One time, a young man who was very good at making omelets made mine. I told him not to put cheese on it, and he forgot. So when I came back he was just finishing it and asked if I wanted cheese again. I told him I did not. He gave me the omelet. I started eating it and realized that cheese had been cooked all through it. I was so angry. After a few minutes I brought the omelet back, told him that I had asked for no cheese because I will get sick if I eat cheese and he should have just told me that he had forgot and put cheese in the omelet. I then said that I did not have time to wait for another one, so I'd just eat something else. I was polite, but firm. In the ensuing weeks, that guy always made sure that nobody put cheese in my omelets and he was really nice. You know, it should not hurt to treat someone nicely even when they mess up and they will treat you with greater respect in the long run. If it does hurt, then you may want to get some therapy or something.

1 comment:

Mel Chickk said...

Right on! Well said. I worked customer service for 17 years. If someone was rude or mean to me for absolutly no reason other than they were buttheels, it only made me do my job that much slower. We were never allowed to talk back or be rude or even defend ourselves to customers but nobody ever said how fast we had to work!