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Mindful : April 2019
By Elaine Smookler I’m on my fifth phone call to the customer service line when I finally get an answer. After what feels like an eternity of pressing extension num- bers, getting transferred, and being forced to listen to hold music that feels like a deliberate torture device, the maddeningly cheery customer service rep explains to me why the computer I ordered—and paid for— is never coming. Ever. And then, to top it off, she has the nerve to tell me the company “appreciates my business.” I want to scream. I want to unleash my outrage and indignation on the woman paid to deliver this terrible news. But instead I take a deep breath and remind myself that we all want to be happy, appreciated, respected, and heard. And that includes customer service representatives. For the past few months I’ve made it a conscious goal to shift how I relate to unwanted interruptions. I try to be mindful in all my relationships, but for some reason my good intentions can quickly go down the toilet in the presence of a faceless pair of ears paid to listen to me rant. Spending hours on the phone being bounced around through call centers can incite strong emotions in me, such as outrage, victimization, and irritability. Sure, the call won’t last forever. Unfortunately, neither do the appliances, computers, warranties, and too-many-other- things that tether us to these frustrat- ing entanglements. It’s not always easy, but these unavoidable interactions offer ample opportunities to practice patience, mindfulness, and, most importantly, compassion. In my exploration, the first thing I learned is to cultivate curiosity → How May I Help You? A lesson on cultivating kindness in the most unlikely of situations: the customer service call. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Elaine Smookler is a registered psychotherapist with a 20-year mindfulness prac tice. She is a senior faculty member at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. 20 mindful April 2019 LIVING | inner wisdom PHOTOGRAPHBYBRKATIKROKODIL/STOCKSY