Practice random kindness…

A client told me a story today that made me think of the saying practice random acts of kindness. You just never know what people may have been going through in life, or this day, so its best to practice kindness as often as possible.

How crazy would this be: the receptionist who answers the phone at a hearing aid facility talks too fast and doesn’t listen to the caller even when the caller states that they are hard of hearing?

Crazy is too often true but this story is even worse – the receptionist hung up not once, not twice, but three times on my client, a disabled man who wears two hearing aids!

This client, we’ll call him Joe (not his name), had lost one of his custom made, expensive hearing aids which is why he was calling. He was quite worried and obviously having even more trouble hearing without one of his aids. When the woman answered the phone, she spoke rapidly and Joe asked first if he had reached “the hearing aid place”. Instead of answering yes or no, and surmising that the caller has at the least, a hearing problem, the receptionist rattled off several sentences that Joe could not understand. He then asked her to please speak more slowly – and can she just say yes or no if he has reached the right place? Again, she rattled off several sentences that he did not understand. When he tried to explain that he has a phone for the hearing impaired and if she speaks more slowly he can adjust the receiver – she continued to talk over him without listening.

Keep in mind – she’s answering the phone at a place that makes hearing aids….

As the woman continued to talk over Joe, he raised his voice and said – hold on, hold on, please hold on…and she hung up on him! This was very upsetting to him, but he dialed the place again. When she answered he said – if this is the hearing aid place, i think im the person you just hung up on…and she hung up on him again without a word!

Fifteen years ago this man was a working truck driver, transporting goods that you and I count on, when in winter he had a terribly serious accident. He has since had some memory, comprehension, and hearing problems. It also took him a couple of years to regain the ability to walk or have feeling in several areas of his body. He has never been able to work or live a full life since.

People who experience such traumas have long lasting affects to their emotions as well – easily set off panic, anxiety, fear, and memories of their trauma; your basic post traumatic stress disorder. Something as “simple” as being rudely dismissed and hung up on when trying to call for help – sets off anxiety and even memories of his life threatening accident.

My client’s wife, also an older woman with some disabilities of her own, called the hearing aid place a third time and was able to speak to the physician who makes the hearing aids. When she explained what had happened, the physician said – “The receptionist told me that Joe was rude to her. I know he has hearing problems but she’s new – there’s two sides to everything.”This cavalier attitude made Joe feel betrayed by a practitioner who had worked with him for a long time and usually understands.

It also suggests that he will not do much to retrain this new receptionist – who needs to perhaps realize that people calling a hearing aid place, may be hard of hearing.

The practitioner obviously did nothing about it that day. Joe called the next day to inform the physician that the hearing aid had been found and to ask if it should be brought in for adjustment so Joe wouldn’t lose it again. The receptionist hung up on him the minute she heard Joe’s voice!

What happened to common courtesy? Any patience or compassion? Is “the customer is always right” completely outdated?

Joe told me he thought about his phone call “for several days” trying to learn how he had acted so badly as to “deserve” such treatment. His wife confirmed for him that he had likely done nothing at all wrong. I agree and I’ve worked with Joe for nearly a year.

I hope we’ve all had the experience of our day improving because someone smiled at us or had a kind word to say. I know I have. Unfortunately the opposite is also true.

Fortunately, Joe has gained some wisdom and strength during his years of recovery and rebuilding life. Despite his ruminations, and the usual feelings he has of being isolated, left out, misunderstood, and a bother because he always has to ask people to slow down when speaking, he was able to go on with relative stability and whatever joy he is able to experience.

No thanks to a young receptionist who needs to learn manners at least – and to practice kindness more than randomly, at best.


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