Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dealing with an institution? Meditation for 3.13.14

Bray's Island; SC

“The hallmark of our age is the tension between aspirations and sluggish institutions.”  -  John Gardner

“Countries, states, cities, corporations and laws are all merely words on paper.”  -  Bryant McGill
     Dealing with institutions can be quite aggravating.  First, it can be a challenge just to get someone to speak to – who hasn't spent a half hour in an automated system only to be cut off and have to start over.  When a human is finally on the other end of the line their English is often so poor that just trying to communicate with them is exhausting.  Since we don’t know what we don’t know, often we are not aware of the right things to ask in order to accomplish what we want.  We have to deal with people hiding information and even outright lying in order to get what their employer wants.  And then there are the forms that are prepared by batteries of lawyers.  Often it seems they are designed to purposely trip us up and keep us from achieving the objective we are after.  And when it comes to dealing with various government offices?  Very often we deal with people who are downright condescending, who when we finally do get to speak with them act as if they are too important to be bothered with mere commoners or as if they are protecting nuclear secrets.

     Supposedly, institutions are comprised of people just like you and I, but somewhere in their labyrinth of protocols and rules common sense breaks down.  At one point or another, each of us have to deal with the greed of the corporation and the apathy of the government.  It is just a fact of life.  So, how can we be effective?

     It is difficult to not lose our cool because when we are typically dealing with the insensitivity of an institution it is typically just compounding a problem we didn’t want to start with.  When we find out we are going to have to deal with one it helps to lower or completely drop any expectations we have that we are going to be dealing with rational behavior or that we will be able to accomplish a seemingly simple task in a reasonable amount of time.  We are usually up against an agenda we are not being informed of, and the agenda was not created with our well-being in mind.  Google is a marvelous tool – if we can take a moment or two it usually isn’t difficult to find how others have been rebuffed or have successfully navigated the waters we are about to enter.   When one of these folks does come on the line, if they state their name it is usually only a first name or purposely said in a garbled fashion.  One tool I like to use is to be CERTAIN to get the name of the person I am speaking with at the beginning of the conversation, asking them to spell it and writing it down.  “Hi, did you say this is Bill?  Bill, did I get you at a bad time?  This is David Emch – E M C H.  How do you spell your last name?  S M I T H.  Thanks Bill !!  People are a good bit more accountable when their name is known.

    Remaining polite and not making threats is usually most productive.  Often, I ask advice.  “Bill, how would you handle this if you were in my shoes?”  It is surprising how often someone will give valuable information when approached this way.  Clearly stating what we need, listening closely to precisely what people are saying, refusing to take “no” for an answer without a reason and being willing to ask to speak to a superior are all important.  Remember, too often institutions train people on how to put obstacles in place so that most folks will tire of the aggravation and leave empty handed.  But at some point we may have to decide – how important is it?  Losing our serenity – let alone our sanity just isn't worth it.

Today, may I be diplomatic.

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Have a peaceful Thursday !!

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