I don’t talk about work much on this blog, other than to mention the wonderful friends I’ve made in the time I’ve been employed at my company. My job involves customer service, in part, and as a result, I spend a good deal of time observing how businesses interact with customers. I don’t mind waiting in line behind an irate customer at a department store because it gives me an opportunity to see how someone else delivers under pressure.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to others. One of the most powerful tools I’ve observed is silence. It eases tension when things aren’t going perfectly and it balances the energy.
You know the old saw about having two ears and only one mouth? Yes, silence is golden.
This week, I stopped by my friend’s office to talk about some personal business. She works in the “financial services industry” and while I waited, she finished a conversation with a customer who didn’t understand what she was trying to explain. I could tell the call wasn’t going well, but my friend was patient and used the “uncomfortable moments of silence” to defuse the tension. Then, my friend gently placed the phone back in its cradle.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Oh, she said I was a terd and hung up on me. She’ll call back in a few hours. How can I help you?”
Wow! I am so glad none of my customers ever called me a terd!
My friend and I talked about the personal business; she provided advice and a few recommendations. Then she told me a sweet story.
My friend (we’ll call her Jane) had been shopping in a large department store in the suburbs of Boston over the weekend. She and her sister were trying on winter jackets and Jane put her purse down on a counter near the cash register. She and her sister were laughing and having a good time; she got distracted. Then, they left the store. They got in Jane’s car and were driving out of the parking lot before Jane realized she’d left her purse inside the store.
There were moments of panic.
Jane parked the car again and they went back into the store, retracing their steps.
Jane told me that as she and her sister walked towards the outerwear department, a woman approached her and said “you look like you’ve just lost something.” Jane told her she had misplaced her purse. The woman said “I think you’ll find it over in cosmetics” and signaled towards that area. Jane and her sister raced towards that department; three sales associates at the Clinique counter were chatting and in front of them on the glass was Jane’s purse.
There was a “lost and found” conversation and Jane recouped her purse. Not a penny, a mint, or a lipstick was missing. Jane and her sister walked around the store, looking for the woman who’d directed them to the Clinique counter, suspecting she’d found the purse. Jane and her sister tried to recall what the woman looked like, but nothing about her countenance was memorable. They couldn’t even remember the color of her hair. They stood outside the store for twenty minutes, hoping they’d see the woman so they could thank her.
Jane ended the story by telling me “I think this woman was an angel.”
(Image from Child of God, A Picture Prayer Book for Boys and Girls by Rev. J.M. Lelen, Ph.D., copyright 1964-1958-1951. My first prayer-book and my favorite picture of angels.)
I don’t know what I believe about angels. They’re described in many ways in the Bible and other religious texts, sometimes fierce and sometimes cherubic. It’s comforting to think there might be guardian angels looking over us, protecting us in the midst of so much darkness.
Today, given the choice of being a terd or an angel, I’m going to opt for the latter.