No place for hate…
When I was in 4th grade I remember obnoxiously lamenting how much I “hated” someone, and my friend’s dad overheard. We both received the classic “hate is a strong word” lecture.
Of course, I had gotten this talk from my parents, but you never want to listen to your own parents when you’re ten. Since then, I try to check myself whenever I’m feeling hateful about others.
But sometimes you can’t help it.
…Except when there is
I work in retail, and around the holidays things get crazier than usual. Customers are needier, more frenzied, and come at you like a group of people seeking refuge from the zombie apocalypse when the doors open. It’s hard to stay calm and loving when someone is nagging me about how I picked the wrong color ribbon for the present I’m wrapping, or that it’s my fault they ran into a display.
It can be exceedingly difficult to talk to someone who evokes feelings of hate, particularly in situations where you don’t have the option to leave or ignore them.
Author Jay Neinrichs details some techniques to deal with situations where you’d rather murder someone than talk to them. He suggests identifying your goal and audience with every interaction, combating your own feelings of hate with aggressive interest in what the other person is saying. If you act out of sympathy and (faked) love, it’s easier to feel less icky about the situation.
One of my goals is to keep my job. Technically I have a choice about how I respond to customers who tell me they need something for their grandchild who’s smart “because he’s half Chinese” or ask if we have any Silly Putty “for girls” because the only color left is blue. I could launch into a rant about how wrong they are, but that would potentially lead to a negative Yelp review.
In these situations, I ultimately have to consider that I am not just representing myself, but the company I work for. While I would love to hold a combined Sociology/Feminism 101 course in the play area, I don’t have that luxury. Instead I have moments in which I can act out of love and understanding despite my feelings of frustration. My other goal is to not end up in jail for assaulting a customer with a robot claw. So how do I achieve this?
I created a survival game for myself. I call it Uncanny Valley, based on the phenomenon where humanoid replicas are eerily human, but something isn’t quite right. The rules are simple: be horrifyingly kind, even when I want to throw everyone into a lava pit. I win if I can be the nicest.
I go out of my way to be what I consider disgustingly nice, actively repressing the horrible thoughts I have. For my coworkers who know how irritated I actually am, it’s borderline creepy. I can go from trash talking to answering the phone with a face-busting smile in a matter of seconds.
Whoever is on the other end hears a sweet, attentive employee who wants nothing more than to describe every detail of all the dolls in the store. But look into my eyes and you will see the depths of Mordor.
All the store’s a stage
Technically my audience is everyone in the store, but ultimately it’s myself. I’m the one that has to deal with how I act and react to people that frustrate me. Playing into my feelings of hate is a really quick downward spiral. I’m not going to change their worldview in a twenty minute interaction. What I can control is how I act, and in turn that helps assuage feelings of hate.
I try to consider why someone is mad at me for their kid breaking something. Yes, their child is being awful, and that’s unfortunate for me in that moment. But they have to live with that kid full time. So while I can’t make their four-year-old heathen a shining example of good parenting, I can provide a moment of calm and understanding.
Am I seething inside? Absolutely. But they don’t need to know that. I almost always win Uncanny Valley.
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