I have repeatedly confessed my guilt at being a jackass. I also think of myself as a humanitarian.
Yes, those two things are deeply at odds but they are not completely incompatible. You see, my career is entirely focused on helping to solve the world’s biggest problems: poverty, disease and climate change. I continue to work actively in several ways on each of these areas. I take them seriously.
Despite that, I think I inherited from my humanitarian father, either by close association or perhaps genetically, a tendency to dislike associating with people. Of course, I spend lots of time with people and love the time I spend with Gail, my wife. But there is little I hate worse than a reception where I am expected to chat up people I don’t know. This is true even though I have enjoyed meeting virtually everyone I’ve ever met at a reception.
What’s worse, is that I have long had a problem with all forms of customer service people, whether we are talking about “Peter” with the heavy Indian accent on the phone representing my airline or the order takers at McDonalds. Something in my mind always whispers, “They’re out to get you.”
(Yes, I am aware of the irony of treating badly people who earn minimum wage while advocating on behalf of low-income people and for social justice.)
Of course, this is absurd. For years, I have tried to address this by pledging not to be a jackass to customer service people. It remains my greatest personal challenge.
Today, I had an epiphany. Instead of trying not to be a jackass, I will instead try to be nice. Really nice.
I figure, that if I try to be in the top ten percent of customers as measured by niceness, then I’m not being a jackass. It also has the benefit of not requiring that I remind myself before every interaction that I have been a jackass in the past, which seems to have had the effect of reinforcing the idea that I am a jackass.
So, here’s my three-point plan to be nice to people, especially customer service people.
My old list was pretty much limited to, “Don’t scream at people unless they really deserve it.”
Is it possible that learning to be nice to people can make it easier for me to enjoy a reception or even a sales call? I hate making sales calls so much I basically refuse to make them. Could it be possible to become a truly nice person with practice? This jackass hopes so.
(Maybe this will even be the last time I call myself a jackass.) Wish me luck. The customer service people I meet will thank you. Here’s hoping we connect at a reception!