Have you ever thought much about the people you deal with every day who sit or stand across the table or counter from you and provide a service? Far from robotic, these too are average folks who get up, go to work, do the best they can and go home. They have personal struggles, mental health issues, real-life disasters, hopes and dreams, wants and needs just like me; just like you.
Not many of us care to know quite frankly. When we go in to renew our licence plate stickers and get in that 12 person deep line, shunting our way up to the counter, we just want to pay our dues, get the sticker and leave. We may even share with those we meet for the rest of the day our complaint about the long line, the inconvenience of the process and high fees, and to finish off our rant, complain about the attitude and tone of voice of the man or woman who served us.
And this lack of thought isn’t confined to someone at the licencing centre. No, we likely don’t give much of a thought to the well-being of the Bank Teller who handles our transactions, the person who serves us in the drive-through, the shopkeeper who sells us an item in their store. If you’ve got something – some things – on your mind that worry, stress, preoccupy and keep you from focusing on what you’re doing with a 100% positive attitude, why is it hard to understand that the other people we interact with daily have similar challenges?
Now, to be clear, when we are dealing with such people, it’s inappropriate for both you and I to stop and ask with sincerity how they are doing and whether or not they’d like to open up and share their problems with us. We don’t all have the necessary training to start with and there’s that growing line behind you that you’re now holding up and in doing so, you’re compounding their stress to serve others. And surely, you don’t really expect them to honestly share much of anything with you in that public setting, nor expect them to fully trust you whom they don’t know much at all?
What you and I can do however is our very best to be everything we’d expect in return: courteous, respectful, kind, pleasant to deal with and yes, smile which makes us nicer to deal with.
You might think this is a given; it’s known, basic, interpersonal skills 101. However, I see many people approach those behind the counters and treat them poorly. Raised voices, a lack of manners, scowls at the outset, seemingly looking to provoke an altercation, foul language, animated faces and drama more suited to a theatre stage than a bank reception area. I’ve even found myself apologizing for someone else’s rude behaviour when it’s my turn. Just acknowledging the difficulty they had providing service to the previous person goes a long way.
The thing is we expect the people who serve us to be 100% focused on us. Some would say, “That’s what their paid to do so yes, just do their job.” And honestly if that’s your reaction, you’re likely one of the people who doesn’t care to think about other people as, well…. people. Why would you assume they shouldn’t be working if they’ve got problems on their minds? My goodness, many people would sit home for long periods were this the case.
The truth of the matter is that a great number of people with problems, worries, stressors and mental health challenges find the inner resolve and strength to go about their work day each and every day. They do bring their problems with them to work, then to the grocery stores where they stand in line served by others, then to the gas stations or bus stops where they are surrounded by more people and served by the Cashier or the Bus Driver. On the outside they may look like they’ve got it all together; not a care in the world. On the inside, hidden away from the public, they too may be dealing with all kinds of things we’ve no idea of.
So it’s important therefore to be kind, respectful and yes, even empathetic when we don’t get the absolute best from whomever we are dealing with. If the Waitress neglects to bring us the ketchup we asked for, it’s surely not something to make a big deal over is it? Ask a second time and be kind about it. Maybe she’s worried about getting a call from the school about her child’s behaviour, perhaps she received an eviction notice just before coming to work and she’s conflicted with being here at work serving you so she holds on to her job, but really would rather be packing up or planning to fight it.
To close, I often suggest to you readers that you take advantage of counselling services to unburden your load, share your troubles and in so doing, move forward. That person listening to you, for all their expertise is a human too. As you pour all your feelings out, you’re one of 3 or 4 to do so that day and every day. That’s a huge responsibility they take on gladly, and while they are paid well, they also pay a price you can’t measure.
Be kind, show gratitude, be understanding. Every day with everyone.