Thursday, December 10, 2009

You teach people how to treat you

One of Dr Phil's catch phrases is "You teach people how to treat you". I've always found some of the connotations of that deeply troubling, but recently the element of truth in it has been hitting me in the face.

A long time ago, I worked in the public service. Any request to anyone was prefaced with "I'm really sorry to ask this, I'm hoping you can help me out". The only way to get anything done was to be incredibly nice to people, to apologise for asking them to do their jobs and to thank them profusely when they did. I was OK with that, although I found it mildly amusing that I was required to beg people to do what they were paid to do.

Then I moved into telco, and found that the only way to get anyone to do anything was to yell and scream and threaten and be otherwise rude and obnoxious. After many years of this, I realised that I'd almost forgotten how to make friendly, positive, apologetic requests and I was pretty disgusted with myself.

I then spent a bit of time doing odds and sods and re-learned the sweet-talking approach to getting things done. I felt better about it, and the bad habits were starting to break down (although I can't claim they'd gone altogether). Recently, I've been back in the land of Big Telco and Big Corporate. And suddenly, I'm having to yell, to be sarcastic, to be withering and condescending to get anything done. These people are teaching me how to treat them. They won't do anything when I ask nicely. When I'm jovial and friendly and ask for favours I am dismissed. When I rant and bitch and complain things happen.

This isn't just process driven. It's not just the result of dealing with faceless corporations. Many of the people I've experienced this with have been the only witness to my behaviour. They could have chosen to work with me when I was being nice and to ignore me when I was being a bitch, but they did the opposite. In every case I tried nice first. I am sick of being the loud mouthed arsehole just so I can get stuff done. It leaves me feeling drained and shitty. If I do exactly the same amount of phone calling, juggling and cajoling in a "Please help me out, mate" kind of way, I feel enthused, energised and chuffed with my achievements.

So please, teach people how to treat you, and teach them to be nice to you! Expedite the polite requests and lose the rude ones. Don't make me yell at you, I don't want to, and it makes both of our days shitty.

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