It’s always disconcerting to run across a rude or mean spirited person, but if you work with the public, you know they are out there. Thankfully, they are in the minority.
There’s a difference between someone who is dissatisfied with service and someone who genuinely enjoys being contrary. It’s easier to deal with angry people than those that are downright spiteful; who try to goad, upset and hurt you.
In any business, mistakes are made. Employees have a bad day; someone is off sick; there’s an equipment failure. And all you can do is get thru it the best you can, apologize to those who are inconvenienced, and try to make things right.
There’s a certain satisfaction in correcting a mistake, turning an angry customer into someone who believes they are important and who knows that their business counts.
It’s harder in those rare instances when you run across someone who is just mad at the world, and you are the scape goat for the day. These people are usually just vicious, attacking people rather than issues, and not listening to answers. You almost wonder if they don’t get a certain joy from upsetting others. When confronted with someone like that, it does upset me, but I’ve learned to shake it off, wondering what in their life is so painful it makes them feel good to strike out at others.
We joke that the full moon brings out the worst in people; but I’ve come to believe that there are other contributing factors: upcoming storms, heat waves and cars.
I say cars because I’m frightened at the anger I see in some drivers. I don’t know if I am driving slower, or the world is going faster, but I’m amazed at how people speed past in no passing zones, ride my bumper before zipping around me and then nose up to the car ahead; or just careen past me when i’m stopped at a turning light – fast enough to make my little car shake.
Where is everyone going in such a hurry? They must have much more exciting lives than I do. What’s really scary is when someone zips around me, I check my speed, and realize I am over the limit too. Time to slow down.
I’ve made a conscious decision to try to smile more and worry less. I can’t fix the problems of the world or right all the wrongs.
I’d like to say I’m going to stop and smell the roses, but I don’t have any. I just have a few petunias and lots of weeds.
So instead, I am trying to start every day with a smile on my face. What’s interesting is the effect a smile has on others. They smile back. And it makes the world a lot more pleasant.
This column first appeared on July 14, 2006.