Column: Overwhelming civility

Aaron Holmes

Tuesday, February 16 2016

Long lineup at the Registry office?

Stuck on hold for 21 minutes to cancel something you didn’t order?

Need to call someone back to get something done right?

You may as well be nice about it.

These situations emerge from layered problems.

You start with an annoyance. It could be renewing something, fixing something that shouldn’t be broken, or anything that takes your attention away from something you’d rather be doing.

Then add frustration. Frustration is different. Instead of swatting your annoyance like a mosquito you’re stuck. You can’t get it resolved. The annoyance festers.

The annoyance and the delay are outside your control. There’s no situation so bad that you can’t make it worse.

These situations tend to involve asking someone for help. Maybe they can help you and maybe they can’t. Then there’s that indeterminate band in the middle where they could help if they want to.

If you have enough willpower left, you can choose your approach. The grouchy approach, no matter how right you are, can only serve to annoy whoever you want help from, and knock you out of that band where they want to help you.

Conversely, if you choose civility despite being annoyed and frustrated, your worst case scenario is that you avoid adding another layer to your problem. Instead, they might go out of their way to help you get what you want.

Bonus points: Rework your systems so people who deal with you don’t arrive annoyed and frustrated.