Sunday, August 22, 2010

Be An E.G.


They were playing in the back yard – the two little girls who lived in the house directly behind mine.

‘Let’s play mothers and fathers,’ suggested one as I pegged my washing on the line. ‘I’ll be the mother and you can be the Dad. And he (the dog I presume) can be the kid, okay?’

This agreed upon, she immediately launched into her role.

‘I have to do every bleep thing around this place. I’ve hardly had a wink of sleep for days with this bleep squawking brat of a kid of yours and you can’t even get off your bleep and give me a hand to clean up this pig sty of a bleep house’

Don’t talk to me like that you bleep bleep’ rallied the other girl ‘You sit around on your bleep bleep and do nothing every day of the week while I have to go to work. The least you can bleep do is take care of the baby and clean the bleep house.’

‘What the bleep is going on out here you two?’ demanded the real Mum, as she burst out into the yard. ‘If I catch you using that language again I’ll wash both your mouths out with bleep soap. Where do you pick up this stuff anyway? ‘

Where indeed? 

Those little girls had grown up believing that this was how married people interacted – because this was the example set for them by their parents. How many times had we quietly gone back into the house rather than listen to another of the screaming matches from over the back fence?

Why didn’t the mother recognise her own voice, and the voice of her husband, in the role playing of her daughters? It was obviously easier to imagine their little minds had been corrupted by the behaviour of other children at their school.

The children were learning, by the example of their parents, that the way to make their thoughts and opinions known was to launch a verbal attack. There was no need for tact and diplomacy, no need for respect or concern for the feelings of the other person. Just open up your mouth and let all the frustrations erupt like a flow of red hot lava.

Of course I understand that the behaviour of my neighbours was probably the result of the example shown to them by their own parents. That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? We all pass on what we’ve learned – both the good and the bad.

I suppose there are some of us who truly never realize our faults. But, for most of us, we know! We get that momentary glimpse of ourselves as others might see us; we hear the whining, the impatience, the rudeness in our voice, and we feel a stab of guilt. But then we justify, don’t we?

Well what about the things he/she said to me?

We are all quick to pounce of the well known celebrities who have managed to have their indiscretions plastered all over the newspaper headlines yet again. Don’t they understand that they are the role models for our young people? Surely they have an obligation to moderate their behaviour accordingly?

Well I might not have millions of adoring fans hanging on my every word. The masses might not care what I’ll be wearing the next time I appear in public. And no one is offering me big money to write my autobiography. But there are still people who fall inside my sphere of influence; people who can be touched and affected by the things I say and the things I do.

I need to be an E.G. -an example. I can’t change the world on any great scale. But I can stop and listen to myself sometimes when I’m speaking, especially if I’m angry or upset. I can read the emails I’m about to post off to friends – and the posts I’m about to put up on Facebook, or the messages I’ll text on my phone. I can ask myself how I’d feel if someone else had said or written those things. Would I find them rude or churlish – derogatory or insulting? And if I would, then perhaps it’s better to wait until I have something positive and constructive to say, or to write.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking Good


I used to work in a Call Centre. We (my colleagues and I) spent our work day sitting at our desk, answering phone calls and completing related clerical duties. We had no face-to-face contact with the public or with any of the other departments within our organization.

So why, we often asked, were we required to wear Office Attire Would it be so terrible if we fronted up for work wearing our favorite jeans and sneakers? No one ever saw us apart from the other members of the Call Center staff.

It didn’t matter whether our customers could see us or not, we were told. We needed to present as professionals, and our ability to do that was influenced both by our environment and by our frame of mind. The way we felt about ourselves would reflect in the tone of our voice on the phone. Actually, even something as simple as whether we sat up straight, or slouched, in our chair, would affect the way we spoke to our customers –we could sound bright and friendly, or sullen and disinterested. I guess we didn’t really believe the things they were telling us – not until Pajama Day.

Working in an Inbound Call Center can be an extremely stressful job and there is always a very high turnover of staff. One of the ways in which the companies attempt to boost morale is to hold frequent ‘special days’ – some fun event to promote, and build, team spirit. The Pajama Day was one of those occasions.

We were all invited to wear our Pajamas at work. There was a prize on offer for the Best Pajamas, so naturally the more outgoing staff members went ‘all out’. We had ladies with curlers in their hair and even one who wore a startling green beauty mask treatment. We lounged at our desks in Pajamas, robes and slippers and there was a seemingly endless supply of toast, English Muffins, tea and coffee, supplied by Management (to be consumed during breaks of course). The atmosphere was fun and frivolous and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.

Yet, by mid morning there was not one person still wearing their pajamas. Quite early in the piece, people started to mention how difficult it was to deal with the complex problems. Suddenly it seemed as though our bodies and our minds had lapsed into Relaxation Mode. When faced with a belligerent caller, we found ourselves intimidated and upset, rather than being able to employ the techniques taught to us for the handling of such situations.

For me personally the responses I offered to customer queries seemed to be lacking in authority. I felt as though they could actually see me – sitting there in my Pajamas – and I was sure they were thinking of hanging up and calling back in the hope of getting a REAL Customer Service Advisor.

As soon as I changed into my Office Attire, I noticed an immediate difference in the way I fielded the calls. I was back in the driver’s seat, confident and competent and I’m sure if my calls were monitored that day, there would have been a noticeable difference in the way I presented to my customers.

From this experience I learned a valuable lesson. Looking your best is not necessarily about just trying to impress others. It’s also about your ATTITUDE towards YOURSELF. And your attitude towards yourself really DOES affect the way you interact with others.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Attitude Matters


As I was driving home a few days ago I found myself following a car with a slogan emblazoned across the back window in large, red letters. It said 'Don't Care!'

In today's world, it's easy to understand why people might feel this way. Every day we are bombarded with negativity via the television and newspapers – stories of war and natural disasters; threats of economic collapse and acts of terrorism.

Reports claim that more and more people are suffering from stress related illnesses. With untold numbers of businesses folding like an origami class, the only ones making a killing seem to be the Pharmaceutical companies, through the sales of the medications specifically designed to combat depression and anxiety disorders. So many people are just giving up. What's the point? All I'm doing is beating my head against the wall - making myself more stressed and anxious. Why bother?

But the ‘Don’t Care’ Attitude, rather than making things easier, only contributes to the downhill slide.
In fact it actually helps to smooth the way and make things happen even faster.

I confess that I have never been a fan of those so called 'Self Help' books. The ones with Titles like ‘You Are a Winner’ and ‘You Can Do It’. But in fact the philosophy contained in these books is for real.

Practise Positivity!

Now I know that even those two words can invoke a very adverse reaction. We’ve all met that perpetually sunny soul who breezes into the darkest moment of your life sprouting messages of The Silver Lining in Every Cloud, and how this traumatic event in your life is only going to make you a better person etc etc.

Yet a positive attitude is one of the most basic survival tools.

Last year my husband was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. For twelve months he had been assured that his symptoms were caused by a hernia pressing on his bowel. The diagnosis was changed to read ‘bowel cancer’ after the bowel actually ruptured.
For fifteen months he wore a Colostomy bag, suffered through 30-weeks of Chemotherapy, weekly blood tests, and seemingly endless visits to Dr’s and Specialists.

He is currently recovering from the surgery to restore normal bowel function. It’s been a long, hard road, fraught with obstacles. His Stoma was prolapsed, which meant that the bags didn’t adhere properly to his skin and there were numerous embarrassing accidents. Because we are self employed, he had to come back to work as soon as possible after the first surgery, and didn’t even have the luxury of hiding away at home. His much anticipated reconstructive surgery was postponed, not once, but three times, and each time hit him a little harder. Yet each time he managed to rise above the disappointment and maintain his optimistic outlook.

Right from the start he stated firmly that he would ‘beat this thing’ (the cancer), and he has.

They have it right, the authors of those Motivational Books. Whatever the question - the answer is to foster a positive attitude. You don't have to be the bubbling, eternal-ray-of-sunshine with a never ending supply of intended-to-be uplifting clich├ęs. You just have to take down the Don't Care slogans and replace them with 'I Can and I Will'.