Telemarketer Compassion

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.
~ Plato

Today, like most days, the phone rang and the caller ID had some weirdo name and number - which is when I know it's going to be a telemarketer. My heart starts racing, blood rushes to my head, my entire body stiffens, and I find myself in this angry place. And that's before I pick up the phone.

This whole reactive process is new to me. When I was in Montreal, I never felt this level of aggravation with telemarketers. Since I moved, though, I've had some pretty heated phone encounters with highly aggressive and annoying callers who leave me dizzy with anger (literally). So like Pavlov's dogs, I guess it didn't take long for my body to adapt to the auditory and visual cues of impending disaster.

It was weird today, though. I felt most of the physical and emotional things before I picked up the phone, which led me to be slightly curt to the caller. But as he was talking to me, something came over me. He gave me his shpeel and I told him I wasn't interested and then there was a silence. And just as I was hanging up the phone, I had a fleeting thought that caught me off-guard: I was thankful he had a job.

I have no clue why I thought that, or what was different at the end of this particular conversation, but I wasn't dizzy. I wasn't angry. My heartbeat was normal. I thought of how he must have felt after not having made the sale. Deflated, perhaps. I wondered what his life was like, somewhere in the world. If he had a family, parents, a wife, kids, and was just trying to make it by. And I got this feeling of empathy. And then I became glad that he was making an effort. And then I felt grateful that he had a job.

Maybe he was trying to sucker me into a scheme, and maybe the people he works for are crooks, and who knows, maybe he is one, too. But maybe he's not. And maybe he's just doing what he needs to do to get by.

That's when I remembered the Buddhist virtue of compassion, and how if you go through your life with compassion for everyone on your path, you won't have space for any other emotions. Everyone is struggling with their own problems, and if you understand that and approach everyone with compassion, it gets harder and harder to be angry. The next time you are faced with an angering situation, try imagining that the other person just lost their job, and react from that place of compassion instead. See how different it feels.

I hadn't intended on being compassionate with that caller today (though I wish I had), but it came to me anyways. And the feeling of compassion was so much better than the feeling of anger. And I hope the next time the caller ID says telemarketer, I remember the guy sitting in a room on the phone just trying to feed his family.

And I hope I smile before I pick up the phone.

Is there any situation in which you wish you had been more compassionate towards someone?

1 comment:

  1. Generally people don't WANT to be a telemarketer. Most likely it's just a job to be able to pay the bills...