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Bladine: Little bit of serenity can go a long way

Dear Santa,

This year, please give me that present first summoned in 1932 by Lutheran theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Meanwhile, on a less grand scale, I’m practicing my six-word mantra when talking to people about obstacles I may face with their companies or organizations: “Serenity now; it’s not their fault.”

That mindset came in handy this week when I learned that an order picked up from a large local store was missing one package. Initial efforts to locate the missing piece produced information to contact the store’s regional supply center.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Both packages were delivered, I was told, so the local store had to reconcile the problem. My first two local phone calls ended in disconnects, each after 10-15 minutes of wait time. Undeterred, and with self-induced serenity, I persevered.

After 10 more minutes, my third call reached an “associate.”  She listened, put me on hold for another 10 minutes, and returned to say the package could not be found. I would have to talk with a manager, she said, and I said to myself, “Serenity now; it’s not her fault.”

As if to reward my indulgence, a manager arrived to the phone within a few minutes. He took down all the information, put me back on hold, and returned with a thesis about what had happened and a plan to handle the situation.

“I hope I don’t have to call back in,” I said in my best-humor voice, “your phone system is pretty slammed up.”

“Yes,” he said, clearly thankful for my lenient approach, “it’s a combination of being understaffed and being at a real busy time of year. We’ll get back to you.” I hung up, knowing my little problem would be solved, and feeling strangely peaceful instead of annoyed about the whole experience.

I suppose there’s a simple lesson here: If you are aggravated going into a conversation with someone connected to that aggravation, say to yourself, “Serenity now; it’s not their fault.” Better yet, tell them at some point, “I know this isn’t your fault, but I hope you can help.”

Turns out, that tactic can be more than just a small gift to the person handling your complaint; it can be a nice gift to yourself, not to mention some atonement for times when you, like myself, weren’t always so tolerant.

Happy holidays, Santa.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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