Calling Strangers

When I worked in an office, I trained new hires to conduct telephone interviews.  I had a team that helped out new hires during their first few weeks.  Calling strangers and asking them to talk to you- it can be hard, and you have to have a thick skin.  You want to know why kids bully?  Because their parents think it’s okay to yell at someone who happens to call them and say “hello”. (side note- I get that the issue is bigger and more complex, but I ultimately think it stems from adults being…well…straight up rude).  I realize that it might be inconvenient for you to get a call on your phone. That being said, if you respond like a jerk, how do you expect your kids to treat other people who inconvenience them? Come on people.

This story takes place on the first night that new hires actually get on the phone to talk to real people.  It can be exciting and also a bit scary.  A sweet girl called someone, and that someone decided the most appropriate course of action was to start screaming profanities and insulting her.  Keep in mind that she said, “Hi, my name is —- and I’m calling from —–, I would love to ask you a few questions”.  She immediately burst into tears and quit that night.  I hated that part of my job, I hated that I had to tell her that it happens, it’s going to keep happening, and you can’t let it get to you.  Sticks and stones? It’s crap.  Words hurt.  Strangers yelling at you, it’s not fun.  Some interviewers had an easier time brushing it off and moving on to the next call, but none of them enjoyed being yelled at.  Even the ones who had been doing it for years would need to get up, walk around, talk about the call, etc, in order to move past the emotions that being mistreated brings up.

I wish I could say that this was a random occurrence.  I wish I could say that most of the time, people were kind, that if someone wasn’t interested in taking a survey, they said, “no thank you, I don’t do phone surveys” and the call ended.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.

I see so many articles about kids and bullying, about zero tolerance, about how to handle this “issue with kids today”.  Guys this is not a problem with the upcoming generation.  Kids aren’t “just mean”.  When someone calls your house and you use that moment to be unkind- kids see, kids hear.  The fact that we think our kids are straight up mean- this is because they are holding up mirrors.  If you leave a social event and immediately get in the car and say, “oh my gosh, that girl looked HORRIBLE”, or “Wow, he’s so annoying”, why in the world would we expect to have loving and kind children?

Now, I get it, everyone makes mistakes, and kids are learning about social interactions.  They will say things you would never dream of saying.  Not everything a kid says is a direct reflection of how the parent speaks.  Kids are their own people and are trying to navigate this world.  But guys, before we start trying to “fix” kids, maybe we should look at our own hearts first.  Now that my 4 year old has made it quite aware that she is ALWAYS listening, I have realized how often I say things I would not want her to repeat.

If you are reading this and  you are feeling defensive, prickly, annoyed… listen to those feelings, that’s normally a sign that this a trigger issue for you.  Instead of responding with something along the lines of “someone mean called my house, they were rude to me, you don’t know my story”, instead of immediately saying something like “they shouldn’t take a job like that if they don’t want to get yelled at”, take a breath and explore that maybe this is something you also struggle with.  Take a moment and realize that if your response to this is to attack or defend, it might be an issue for you.  Go with that, it’s a good thing and you will be a better, kinder, happier person for it.

Also- the next time someone calls your house, for any reason, please remember that the person who is calling- he or she is a person, a real, live person, with a heart.  Imagine that was your best friend, your child, yourself at the job, calling people every day and this was how you pay your bills.  You don’t get to be mean because you are having a bad day.  You aren’t 5.  You don’t get to have tantrums anymore.  I mean, I guess you do, and that’s your right, but I hope you are aiming for better than that. Even if you don’t think that other person “deserves” it, treat people with dignity, humanity, and love, think of it as your random act of kindness for the day.  I know a lot of people who spend all day calling strangers, and they are some pretty cool people, so when your phone rings and it’s someone calling to ask you a few questions- maybe you could even give them a few minutes of your time.

One thought on “Calling Strangers

  1. Nice article, Rachel. I’m pushing 20 years in 3 different call centers talking to people from all walks of life and you’re right, it makes no sense the way some people respond. But then again there are a lot of people out there who genuinely thank you when you can help them or just listen to them talk.

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