The Power of Negativity
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom .
Why is it that hurtful words can be etched into our hearts forever and quiet kindnesses sift away like wind-swept sand on the beach?
The phantom roofers finally showed up today and promptly left. I know they showed up because I ran home from work at lunch to have a chat with them about jerking me around last week and then being MIA from work and theyâ€™d apparently been there just long enough to park their dumpster on my front lawn after asking someone who doesnâ€™t live at my house if it was okay. They didnâ€™t come back.
It certainly didnâ€™t help with a positive attitude on my part. And the major home improvement company was down yet another promiseâ€¦the one about exactly where they were to park the dumpster and where they most certainly were not to park it.
Meanwhile, I called to find out why I was being billed incorrectly for the roofâ€”a little glitch that dropped my credit score below 800 overnight and made me even less happy with the major home improvement company. After 20 minutes of rising blood pressure in phone hell (aka, â€œPress 3 to disconnect this call because we donâ€™t let real people answer customer service callsâ€), I finally was able to bypass the system and find a human to talk to.
Her name was Chris, and it wasnâ€™t her department and she didnâ€™t have access to my account. But she was wonderful. It was all in her attitude.
She was charming and friendly and apologized for the delay while she dug through her desk looking for a number for the Customer Care department that would get me through to a â€œreal personâ€ who could bring up my account and fix the error. We chatted and my blood pressure dropped some and, well, she did a great job of customer service, even though it wasnâ€™t officially her job.
But her kindness is fading alreadyâ€¦.if I didnâ€™t capture it here, right now, it would be forgotten quickly, erased by her colleagues. The power of the negative can be monumental and it can erase any good feelings in any relationship, business or personal.
I was in a better mood already and feeling rather optimistic of a quick resolution when the woman in Customer Care answered with a quick, blunt, â€œThis is @*#&%$, Customer Care. What is your account number?â€
â€œExcuse me?â€ What was it sheâ€™d said? Wachovia? Salovia? Lavonia? I was jotting down the time, date, and my point of contact for future reference. She didnâ€™t have an accent. The name was more unusual than mine, and I frequently repeat and spell my name. â€œWhat was your name again, please?â€
â€œI told you my name.â€ That caught me off-guard. So did her immediate attitude when Iâ€™d not even mentioned my issues and was soft-spoken…at the time.
â€œUm, yes, you did, but I didnâ€™t quite catch it. Could you give me your name again?â€
â€œI told you my name.â€
â€œAnd it wasâ€¦Lavonia?â€ I was pretty sure it wasnâ€™t, but I didnâ€™t want to offend her with what it really sounded like.
â€œYeah, sure, thatâ€™s it. Now whatâ€™s your account number?â€ Same tone of voice. Sorry to be a customer disturbing a customer care rep! Apparently the call wasnâ€™t recorded for quality because the conversation went downhill from there with her raising her voice at me that my billing was correct in spite of the papers Iâ€™d signed because it was their procedure to do it that way and up to me to get it reversed with a phone call from the storeâ€¦even though Iâ€™d sat across the table from my sales rep when he made that call and Iâ€™d talked to their financing office and theyâ€™d run my credit check and given a thumbs upâ€”no bills or interest for a year. Not at all what was on my account statement.
â€œYouâ€™re not listening to me,â€ she yelled at one point. â€œI told you, this is our procedure.â€ Whatever her name was, she finally went to get a supervisor at my insistence, at which point I lost her, never to get back through their phone system again.
So the former kindnesses of the day faded very quickly amid the harsh tone and negative words.
Why is it always like that? I can remember word-for-word two bad reviews Iâ€™ve gotten on my books. All the good ones? I donâ€™t remember. At all. I have a vague feeling of something nice having been said, and whenever I stumble across them again, Iâ€™m always surprised by it. I just donâ€™t remember it. I burned the bad reviews long ago and practiced Vickiâ€™s mantra of stomp about a bad review for five minutes but donâ€™t give it any more of my energy than that. Yet, I still remember the bad ones. To this day.
Most writers are like that when it comes to reviews.
I think most people are like that with criticism. You remember the harsh words of a parent or the cut-your-heart-out evenly stated comments of a lover. Theyâ€™re always right there, right below the surface, waiting for the least thing to dredge them up.
But the sweet messages, the gentle whispers, the oh-so-tiny syllables that let us know weâ€™re loved seem to fade into the aura around us, dissolving into beautiful color but so hard to pick out with distinction and just becoming a part of us instead of sticking out like a knife to the back or the throat or the heart.
Iâ€™m making more of an effort now to capture those words, to write them down. Sometimes theyâ€™re just quotes that are meaningless to anyone else. Sometimes theyâ€™re like affirmations. And mostly, theyâ€™re sweetly private and tucked away where only I will see them.