NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
Earlier today, I had to call the phone company about an error they had made regarding changes to my service plan. I dread making these types of calls because I invariably end up being transferred to multiple service reps before my issues are resolved. I find myself becoming angry and frustrated at how long these calls take and how inefficiently the company handles what should be a very easy and straight-forward request.
Worse Than Usual
Today’s call was far worse than any other such call I’ve made in recent memory. I was transferred to no fewer than five service representatives and was on the phone for close to an hour. It didn’t take long before I felt my heart racing and my blood pressure rising. I ended up losing my cool during this call and expressing my anger and frustration toward the person on the other end of the phone.
When I got off the phone, I felt shaky and uncomfortable. I wasn’t proud of the way I had behaved during the call. While it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset at inefficiencies and wasted time, I didn’t feel good at how angry I had become. I allowed myself to get “rattled” by what had transpired and I had let these events disrupt my well-being.
What Can I Learn From This?
As I like to do, I decided to look at what I could learn from my phone company experience and how I could react differently in the future. “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz quickly came to mind, and in particular the second agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” In short, this agreement states that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality; it is not about us. When we are immune to the actions and opinions of others, we won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Although this agreement has myriad implications for all of our interactions with others, I will focus primarily on my experiences of earlier today.
I Took Things Personally…
I took the behavior of the phone company representatives personally. When they told me that they needed to transfer my call to yet another representative, instead of merely acknowledging that the company has disorganized processes which impact all of their customers, I made it be about me. I allowed myself to feel offended and persecuted by the failure of any given individual to help me.
As I was transferred to each successive person, I became angrier and angrier because I felt I was being treated unfairly. I didn’t feel “heard” or understood by any of the representatives, so I spoke more loudly and injected anger and frustration into my voice. In the process, I made things more difficult for myself instead of easier. Instead of working on my service issue, the representatives were instead apologizing for my inconvenience and telling me they understood my frustration. Such platitudes only served to stir up more ire in me because I doubted the sincerity of the words. I was taking things more and more personally and becoming increasingly more upset.
How To Do Better Next Time
What could I do differently moving forward? Here are some thoughts… First, I could set an intention for the call before making it. My intention could be for the call to go smoothly and for me to behave calmly and kindly throughout. This strategy definitely works! Before a recent interaction with someone I find challenging, I set an intention for kindness to govern my behavior with this person. Instead of acting impatient and frustrated as I had in the past, I was much more loving and kind and managed to keep my cool instead of lose my temper.
In future difficult situations, I can take a mental “time out” as needed to help re-center myself. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath and gently reminding myself of my intention to maintain a calm disposition. I can also reflect upon the powerful agreement to not take anything personally. If necessary, I can pause the interaction and revisit it at a time when I am more ready to handle it. In terms of my phone company call, I could ask for the direct number for the new department and contact them later instead of being transferred to them in the midst of my upset. Even a few minutes of “breathing room” before speaking with the next representative could have allowed me the space and time to calm down and get into a better mental and emotional state for the call.
We Control Our Reactions
Today’s interaction reminded me of a very powerful principle. Although we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, we are in charge of our reactions. There will always be companies with poor customer service practices and people who treat us in an unfair or unkind manner. We have the choice as to whether these situations cause us to come unglued and if we will react with anger or emotional upset. Every action we take in life is a choice and it is important to remember that. I chose today to get upset and angry during my customer service call. Next time, I can choose to stay calm and centered while the chaos of a disorganized company unfolds around me. Then I can get off the phone and get on with my day! I trust that I will feel much more empowered and confident with the latter choice.
Implications for the Healing Project
How is all of this relevant to my healing project? Healing happens on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The more “zen” I display in emotionally trying situations, the less my upset will impact my health and well-being. If I can remember to not take anything personally in life, I will be a much calmer and happier person.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
I close with some words of wisdom from Don Miguel Ruiz related to his Second Agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”
You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others. You can travel around the world with your heart completely open. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being rejected. You can ask for what you need without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always, and live with inner peace and happiness.”