So, I work for an organization that assists people with disabilities. I actually went from a bank to my current position, so irate people is nothing new, but I’ve never been able to handle them. I also have some mental disabilities myself, including generalized anxiety disorder which makes dealing with nasty people really difficult (trembling, lightheadedness, etc). I now realize it’s because I was in a confrontation and that’s not the best way for me to deal with them. Finally clicked with this caller today. Let’s call him John.
John called in because he is disabled and received assistance from us. While talking, I can tell within the first couple of sentences that he is definitely disabled so please don’t judge the poor guy too harshly. Anyway, John was receiving medical insurance through his disability assistance. He went to jail and that caused his disability assistance to stop, as well as his medical insurance. He was released after a few years and he needed it turned back on.
Let me say, too, that this guy really needs some sort of an advocate. Like, someone to help him get paperwork done and understand what the rules and regs are. He was getting flustered and irate. He started cursing right away, left and right, because he has been getting procedures and medicines that aren’t being paid for by insurance.
Normally, my response is the same that I’ve seen my more senior coworkers give. I tell them to stop cursing, and if they don’t I hang up. Now that’s when the adrenaline starts kicking in and I start trembling. So, this time I just ignored it and let him talk however he was going to.
After a bit he realized he was being rude and apologized. He kept cursing, but it didn’t escalate into him cursing at me personally, just him cursing in general. He would repeatedly apologize, and he was angry, but he clearly understood that I wasn’t going to be combative and I think he was surprised by that.
The call ended without a solution that made him happy, since the insurance stuff is out of my hands, but at least it ended with something being accomplished and him getting started with getting back on some sort of insurance.
This is kind of a pat on my own back, so please forgive me for that, but I also realized how much worse that call would have been if I reacted to the way he was talking. Nothing would have been accomplished, he would have to call back, and I would have been and anxiety-ridden mess for the rest of the day which would have effected my other calls. That doesn’t mean I’ll let people talk down to me, be racist, sexist, etc. But I do think that it’s given me a more empathetic perspective on a lot of our callers.