by Melody Jean

1 800 Patient Contemporary SeekerRecently I found myself in a one-on-one conversation discussing the possibility that we can find positive in every situation.

My counterpart maintained that there is definitely a way to transcend any instance into a positive or more favorable one – so long as we consciously try to do so, that is.

Differing Opinions

When the idea was first set forth, I, unlike my comrade, automatically started ticking-off exceedingly difficult situations where I believe it isn’t possible to find “the positive” instantaneously.

Finding the Negative

Looking back, I realize this was a somewhat negative approach to the exercise. It’s actually quite ironic in a sense.

There we were talking about seeing the positive in everything and I automatically tripped-up to negative <sigh>.

Yet, alas I’m human, and I have to admit, that’s where my mind went.

This is why I call myself a “contemporary seeker” as opposed to someone who is a “completed seeker” <wink, wink>.

Severity of Circumstance

So with that admission, I will keep on with this post.

The situations that I thought of immediately were ones that I don’t think lend themselves well to finding positivity or anything favorable instantaneously.

You know, those instances where you feel as if you were sucker-punched in the stomach – learning of your significant other’s infidelity or that he or she wants to break-up; that you have a chronic illness; or God forbid the loss of a loved one.

Out of the Fire

Once we’ve made it through the obstacle, or extinguished the fire, I believe that perhaps we can feel more optimistic. Yet, initially some things are just a tough pill to swallow.

So in some scenarios, I think that it’s inevitable that we will feel pain, dread or sheer utter agony at first.

Positively Obvious

Next, I looked to find more common circumstances. That is, those less dire, where frustration is easy to occur, but is likely possible to minimize.

If irritation can be reduced, it will set the stage to make an undesirable situation a more positive one. One particular situation came to mind – the trials and tribulations of 1-800 numbers. Why?

Because 1-800 numbers leave a lot to be desired.

1-800 = Help?

If we have to dial a 1-800 number it usually indicates that we’re in need of help or a service of some kind (e.g. phone, cable, internet, electric, gas, etc. etc. etc.).

Yet, 1-800’s seem to be designed to do anything but help.

Press One For …

99.99999% of the time we’re greeted by an automated message of some kind.

Long gone are the days when a real human answered the phone, and we faintly remember when all we had to do was press zero to skip the automated message to connect with a live, breathing specimen.

Now, when we dial the elusive zero, we’re told “that request is invalid.” Yup. They’ve figured out, that we’ve figured out how to skip the frustration.

Robotic Frustrations

So alas, we’re left to muddy our way through a myriad of robotic questions and prompts to which we can speak our selection or use our keypad.

No matter which 1-800 number I call they all start with the same darn message. I think the message is intended to trick us from pressing the prompts that we have memorized to get through the exercise more quickly.

It says “Please listen to all of the choices because our menu options have changed.” You know how many times I’ve continued to press the same prompts I have memorized for certain calls and NOTHING has changed? Every time. Yes. True story folks.

When Speaking Fails

Anyone who uses the “speaking” option has likely encountered the same irritation as me.

When troubleshooting my smartphone via a 1-800 I might say, “I need technical support.” In turn the computer system responds with an answer so obscure that I’m often left wondering – who programs this garbage? I hear, “Thank you. You said that you’d like a pickle. Is that correct?” As patiently as possible I say “no.”

To this it replies, “I’m sorry, I did not understand your response. So let’s try again (oh goodie gum drops!). Please restate the reason for your call. For example, you might say I have a technical problem (which I already did), or I have a billing question. At the tone, please state your response.”

So reluctantly I repeat, “I have a technical problem” all the while willing my voice to remain steady for fear it won’t understand and offer me a hotdog next.

Ninety percent of the time all of this is to no avail, and after the fifth or sixth try it says let me get you to someone who can understand you. I think, “yeah no sh-t, I could say the same for you!

Finally, though, I’m being connected to a human. I actually find it easier to painfully listen to all of the prompts and use the key pad.

Why We’re Frustrated

I often think that 1-800 numbers aren’t designed with a gazillion choices to ensure we’re transferred to the right operator. Rather, they’re designed so that we get frustrated and give up. As a result, they don’t have to address our inquiry or service need.

In fact, I picture a room full of people (employees) sitting there, eating pizza, surfing the net, or reading the newspaper waiting for the line to ring because someone had the patience to make it through.

By the Time We Get There … We’re Done!

By the time we actually hear the voice of a human we’re toast. All of our patience and understanding is used up.

What ensues often is a snippy conversation with consumer (us) trying to get help and the 1-800 rep repeating “I’m only trying to help.”

A Test in Patience

I think that 1-800 numbers are a good test of patience.

My fellow conversationalist, who I opened this post with, agreed. Yet, he further elaborated that if we could just take a moment to recognize that the representative isn’t to blame for our frustration and treat him or her kindly, we’ll transcend each of those moments into better ones.

Simple and Complex

I think he is right, to a large extent. The world is really a simple place, it’s us humans who make it so complex.

Being frustrated because something takes too long (such as 1-800 phone calls) is a fact of life. We can allow it to upset us, or flip the switch to a different tune.

Ninety Seconds

My counterpart left me with this thought, which I’ll paraphrase to leave with you. He said, “if we can find the feeling of disappointment, frustration, or any other emotion in our bodies, then the actual emotion will only stay with us for about 90 seconds. After that, it’s up to us to move beyond it.”

That’s all for today.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

fellow conversationalist

It is also important to recognize that we get frustrated because of our expectations. When we call a “help” line, we expect not only have our problem(s) addressed but addressed in a short period of time (whatever that may be).
Having the experience not meet that expectation is what creates our feeling of frustration. So, if you pick up the phone and set new expectations, you may have a very different experience. It is not about what is realistic or reasonable (i.e. your problem being resolved), it is about the experience. For example, if the next time you have a technical issue and feel the need to call a support number, set the expectation that you are going to try to make sure the person that you speak too has a positive experience. Have the attitude that you will be “helping” them. You will find the experience much less frustrating and your problem might actually get resolved (that is the added bonus). Oh, yeah. Make sure you clear your afternoon. 😉


Melody Jean

All very, VERY telling points to take note of, my fellow conversationalist 😉 Thank you for elaborating more (e.g. being positive and refining expectations from the outset). I think I used “e.g.” correctly too, and appreciate your use of “i.e.” 🙂


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