I have a job where I have the opportunity to be both yelled at by people who are frustrated and cried to by people who are desperate. And, I promise that I am not being facetious in my use of the word opportunity. These interactions have not only opened my eyes to the real struggles that so many people grapple with, but they have also helped me realize the type of person that I want to be.
There are two types of people in this world those with real problems and those with fake problems. Each day when I awake and am safe, warm, and know that I will be able to eat, I am grateful that I fall into the latter category. I am privileged that I am faced with the annoyance of having to complete my homework for grad-school, the challenge of finding time to do basic household chores, and the looming fear of always being single. My issues seem so petty and small when I am talking to people who in pained voices tell me about how they are losing their homes, jobs, or children. It is true that these people might be the catalyst for their own problems, but that fact is really only indicative of other, real problems lurking beneath the surface.
I am often blamed, implored upon, and taken to task on how to best solve challenges that generally are far beyond any help that I am able to give. After a year of being on the receiving end, I have decided that, no matter the situation, there is a basic three-step approach that can be applied to any social interaction.
- Listen: How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted when friends, family, new acquaintances, or colleagues are trying to relay information to us? I am embarrassed to admit that I used to promptly forget peoples’ names after being introduced. But in the past year, I have been forced to be an active listener, and for that, I am grateful. Sometimes all people need is somebody to listen to them and be able to say, “I am so sorry. This sounds like a really challenging situation.” Listening to complete strangers all day long has led me to truly listen when I interact with those people I do know well and actually listening has deepened my relationships.
- Be Kind: There is very little to be gained in life by being rude or short with people. I have never once felt good about myself after being snarky or snapping at someone. However, I have been proud of myself when I have been patient or bit my tongue when I wanted to be rude or short. Certainly, I stand up for myself if need be, but I try to avoid being petty. There are three areas in which we can be kind: thoughts, words, and actions. Sometimes in life you have to fake it until you make it. I am not suggesting being insincere, but if you choose to be kind in words and actions, kind thoughts will follow. The being is in the becoming. Choosing to be kind has brought me peace. Being on the receiving end of rude behavior only reinforces to me that I don’t want to be burdened by that type of behavior.
- Be Honest: Honesty is the best policy, and honest responses should be delivered with sincerity. I am sure there is something behind the saying, “cheaters never prosper,” but more than that, I want people to tell me the truth. I don’t want to give people false hope, but rather, I want to help in whatever way I can. Sometimes the only way that I can be helpful is by saying, “I am so sorry but this is not something that I am going to be able to help you with.” We should all be honest and not just with others, we also need to be honest with ourselves. The alternative is being dishonest. And, who wants to be known as dishonest?
Taped to my computer on a very professional pink sticky note, I have written a Charles Dickens quote that reads; “have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” It serves as a daily reminder to listen, to be patient, and to be kind. It describes the person I want to be not just at work but at all times.
That’s All She Wrote