Friday, November 13, 2009

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

I took a deep breath. I had scheduled a phone appointment with someone for a company newsletter article, but when I call, I get dumped straight into voicemail. When I finally reach her, 45 minutes later, she's in a meeting and...let's just say her demeanor is "gruff."

I provided an escape clause, "Is this an OK time? I'd be happy to reschedule," but she stepped out of her meeting and we did the very brief interview. I wrote up the article, and sent it to her for review the following morning.

To my amazement, she responded quickly, was complimentary and didn't have a single change. Interestingly enough, she also thanked me for "being patient" the previous day--so she evidently recognized that she'd been out of line.

I find it odd when people for whom you're essentially doing a favor act as if you're inconveniencing them. I was writing an intercompany article with the sole purpose of making her and her department look good. We'd booked a time that she neglected to put in her calendar--no big deal. Once you've blown it, however, in my version of The Game anyhow, you're supposed to default to an immediate, on-the-spot apology. You only get partial points for a day-after one.

I was "patient" because I recognized it as the only way of getting the job done, not because it's my preferred mode of operation. We're all busy, but courtesy makes life a lot more pleasant--and a much better impression.

Heading into the weekend, a video tie-in to the post headline. Elvis Costello cut the most famous version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," but Nick Lowe (who wrote the song) sets a more leisurely pace.


  1. Is it possible she was just having a bad day?

  2. No doubt she was having a bad day. My bigger-picture issue is whether 1) you should ever let other people *know* you're having a bad day by treating them poorly or 2) some people basically have a bad day...every day.

    Call me a sap, but I generally try to be pleasant even to telemarketers and customer service people to whom I am lodging a complaint. (Not always, but generally.) I try to reserve short-temperedness with people who've earned it.

  3. It's the whole "flies and honey" thing. Life is just about always easier when you are nice. Conflict is upsetting. Why spend your day feeling upset and annoyed after explaining to the jerk she is being a jerk? You did the right thing, and hey, you're getting paid for it!

  4. Jake: Good thing she was cool the next day, proving she was having a bad day and she's not just a bitch. People who are mean and cop an attitude make everything more difficult. And I'm nice to the telemarketing people, too...they're just trying to make a living...(well, maybe the yellow pages sales people who challenge me directly on why I would dare cut the them I may be a bit more "direct") But it's a damned small world and we seem to be in a "me vrs them" frame of mind. Let's just all be nice. YES!

  5. smilingtreewriting, it does go back to that, doesn't it? I was reminded the other day of the inherent power and truth in old sayings by someone who had posted Rudyard Kipling's "The Gods of the Copybook Headings." We forget them at our peril.

    adchick, indeed--it brought me back from a sort of dark moment. And as far as people challenging you, or customer service people giving you the runaround, for example, that is an occasion for a more vigorous exchange. As I've gotten older, my fuse has gotten longer and harder to light.

  6. I hear ya, Jake! I experience this same thing every day. Every time I pick up the phone to call a source for a marketing piece, I take a deep breath and remind myself that I've been *asked* to make the call — because there is always a high probability that I'll be treated unprofessionally. It's unfortunate, but sometimes, we're just treated as the "vendor," rather than as a professional. But alas, it hasn't gotten so bad that I've turned down work. :)

  7. Stephanie, that's a bummer that you've experienced such a high rate of negativity. (I'd be curious to know what types of people you're having to call that they'd be so cranky...) Part of the reason that the above incident stuck in my craw was that it was an outlier.