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"Kindness is Free" by Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates

I’m Just Sayin’ Dr.T Column 12/22/21

Kindness is Free

What does it cost you to be kind to someone? Not because someone “deserves” your kindness or because you want a reciprocal act of kindness from them. No. What does it actually cost you to be kind for the sake of kindness itself? There’s so much overt and intentional cruelty in the world. So much inhumanity and hatred towards one another that we often become either disconnected or anaesthetized to the condition of our own humanity and to the humanity of others. Over the last 2 years, as we have been navigating our way through the horrific circumstances of a global pandemic and the angst -filled grievances of a racial reckoning, we have become more and more isolated, disengaged and captivated by our own individual lives and the need to survive, that we have forgotten all about human decency while attempting to move forward. What has happened or perhaps just become more evident these days is the acerbic, rude and careless ways in which we treat one another. Just on “GP” (General Principle).

This has become increasingly evident as we experience a complete deterioration of what used to be called “customer service”. We are living in a time when mediocrity is rewarded, and excellence is like looking for a rare and exotic piece of art. People used to care about how they represented themselves in the workplace and employers used to set a high standard for their business practice and for those employees who were to be the forward-facing identity of the business itself. This observation is not only for commercial business but also for government agencies, as well as non-profit organizations. All over the place, in business, social service, education, within political entities and among private citizens we have collectively fallen into a state of under achievement and consistent mediocrity. Excellence is no longer required or expected, and it is a sad state for our society to be clinging to with little hope of how to emerge from it.

Recently I have taken to cancelling services when the customer service I am asking to receive goes missing. Why am I paying top dollar for substandard service? What I am asking for is basic curtesy and professionalism. I am asking that each employee with whom I interact recognizes that they are the representation of the business I am patronizing and the services that business is providing. I also want recognition that my patronage and the finances I am investing could go to many other businesses, but I chose this particular one. Some level of appreciation for my patronage and continued trust in them as a business and/or service provider goes a long way to increase customer satisfaction. Some level of appreciation for my time is also essential as an imperative for good customer service. However, in these days of online services and the “live chat line” (where people take false names and can claim anonymity) the endless wait time spent listening to the canned elevator muzak play on a loop has literally frayed my nerves and caused me to cancel services before I can even get a “LIVE” human being on the line to respond to my inquiry or my complaint. A certain large media services company is famous for this, and they are also famous for the exorbitant rates they charge for their mediocre services. When a human being responds they are often discourteous to begin with and it descends into a downward spiral of non-helpful or absolute impotent answers. I have often been intentionally disconnected due to the nonchalant, unqualified and completely ineffective so-called customer service representative I have been stuck talking to on the telephone. And (God forbid) I am standing there speaking to them in-person. It’s stunning how much incompetent; rude and indifferent behavior happens in person!

Although one can always choose where to spend their hard-earned money, or where to invest their time and energy, we often do not have a choice in the interaction we must have on a daily basis with other human beings in our workplaces or public facing institutions with which we are forced to interface like schools, public utility companies, store clerks, board meetings, government departments and divisions like the DMV or Social Security Office. “A soft word turns away wrath” is what the old folks say. What does it cost you to be kind? It may just get you what you need in a crunch instead of an argument or an insult. Yes people have gotten more self-absorbed and less courteous over the past few years. It’s not your imagination, but trading unkindness for more unkindness is not helping or changing the situation either. Just be kind. Truly, you have nothing to lose in an act of simple kindness. #happyholidays

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