The past 24 hours have been very enlightening – not easy, but enlightening.
Yesterday I had an issue with a company that spanned conversations with several customer service agents. By the time I got to the supervisor, I was irritated. No one I’d spoken with seemed to have any interest or ability to solve the problem I had encountered. When the supervisor also refused to do anything, I made it clear that I felt their response was unacceptable and I was displeased.
Let me back up and give a little history. In the past I’ve had a bad habit of taking my frustrations out on faceless customer service agents on the other end of a phone call. In general, it happens when I’m already really stressed out. Usually I’ve needed to vent for a while, so when faced with a “stupid” CSA, I explode all over them.
I was too scared to express anger in my day-to-day life. As I’ve chronicled in the past, I learned from living with my dad that expressing anger was not safe.
Because the upset had to have SOME outlet, I learned to let it out in situations where there wouldn’t be repercussions – for instance, with nameless, faceless customer service agents. Or I would suddenly explode at really inappropriate times – sadly I’ve lost more than one friend that way.
Back to the present – last night I was stern and voiced my displeasure with the CSA, but I did it in what I felt was an appropriate way. I let my voice get heated, but I didn’t try to destroy her. I expressed an appropriate level of displeasure without exploding all over.
When I got off the phone I felt a bit unglued inside.
This morning at the newspaper I was working on a monstrosity of a project. Specifically, I have to sift through 175 years worth of news stories and make them into a nice tidy package. A colleague starting needling me about my methodology and trying to redesign the whole project.
I know that he was trying to be helpful, but it was not the right time or place for the suggestions he was making. I tried to tell him that if he’d made them a few weeks ago, they would have been welcome; but we’re now too far in and I’m buried in too much paper to even listen.
Convinced that he was being helpful, he kept pushing. And pushing. And pushing. And pushing.
Finally I couldn’t hold my frustration with the conversation in any longer. My voice rose and got heated and I told him that he absolutely, positively had to stop. I told him in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I even threw in a few swear words – the whole display was SO outside the norm that it surprised even me.
I was shaken. But I also realized something new – I let myself express the frustration with my co-worker at the appropriate time and in a situationally appropriate way. I didn’t call him names; I didn’t accuse him of anything; I told him that I couldn’t hear him. It turns out that he couldn’t hear me until my voice rose.
I feel no residual upset with him. We had it out and now it’s done. That’s REALLY new for me.
I think that icky feeling I had after both these encounters is the discomfort of doing something new, rather than falling into familiar old patterns.
Uncomfortable, yes. Healthy, definitely.