The last 2 posts have focused on walking in others’ shoes and not making assumptions as we strive for great customer service. The last point I want to make here is to empathize.

To make this point, I turn to the comments section of my local newspaper’s website. The background is as follows: Some group did a study of the 50 largest US cities, looking at upward mobility – the chances of someone being born in poverty being able to move from there into middle class or better. My beloved Charlotte finished LAST. 50th. The worst.

Why? Education was cited as the biggest factor. The public school system here is not nearly the nation’s best. Teacher pay in NC is terrible, so the best teachers can easily go elsewhere. The schools in poor neighborhoods have very little parent engagement and are perpetually under-supplied, so the kids’ performance is poor.

Housing is another problem. Pretty much ever since the depression ended about 2012 or so, there has been one, and only one, type of housing built here: Ultra-Luxury, especially with multifamily units. All the buildings look the same – a very boring beige-and-white. All of them have what amounts to a 5-star hotel for pets. They have the latest smart appliances, the most high-grade fixtures and countertops, wine cellars, all the best everything. They generally rent for $3-4 per square foot – or $2,250-$3,000 for a 750 sq. ft apartment. All financial models say you should never pay more than 30% of your income on your place of residence. This means you have to make $7,500-$10,000 per month ($90,000-$120,000 per year) to afford these units. Please trust me when I tell you this is the ONLY type of housing that has been built in this city for at least the last 5 years. So if you are an entrepreneur just starting out, an entry-level worker in a corporate job, or in a job that pays $10 an hour or less, you are getting frozen out.

Then there is the issue of public assistance programs. There has been a furious debate in the NC legislature this session over Medicaid expansion. The Democrat governor is pushing hard for it, the Republican-majority legislature is opposed. I’m not going to go into who is right or wrong on that. I bring it up just to get back to the comments on the local paper’s site.

There have been a lot of articles and editorials about this Medicaid debate. If you read the comments section of these writings, and you will begin to lose your faith in humanity. The people who are for the Medicaid are, for the most part, people who have a mentality of “any human being with 1 penny more than me is evil, and got that extra penny by lying, cheating or stealing. Take that penny they didn’t earn and give it to me.” The people who are against the Medicaid are, for the most part, people who have a mentality of “there is no such thing as a truly needy person on public assistance; the only people who use Medicaid, welfare, food stamps and disability benefits are people who are perfectly capable of working but they’re too lazy and love being moochers.”  There really isn’t very much middle ground.

“OK Edgar, you bloviating wind-bag, what’s your point,” you may be thinking right now. My point is that in these comments, in the education conundrum, and the decisions behind what to build, there is no empathy or sympathy. Whatever position you are in, there are people doing better than you and people doing worse. We rarely stop and think what led people to those positions. The anti-Medicaid people are wrong; there are people who are genuinely disabled and cannot work (I’m married to one), there are people who have had a tragedy (death in the family, severe injury, sudden loss of work) that are able to work and need a temporary hand until they re-establish themselves. The wealth-envy crowd is wrong; there are plenty of wealthy people that worked themselves to the bone to get where they are. The developers are wrong; the people with 6-figure incomes are not the only ones looking for a new place to live. Yes, there are people who do fit these narratives, but the language people use indicates they don’t think there are any exceptions to the rules they have created in their minds. In all these cases, what you have are people who are assuming the worst of others and not considering what others may have gone through or are going through.

Everyone goes through hard times. The question is, what do you do in response to the hard times? I have recently gotten hooked on a podcast called “No Quit Living” by Christopher J. Wirth. He interviews people who are extremely successful that also have a story about when they were on the verge of quitting. I encourage you to check it out; it is extremely motivating and inspiring.

When you find yourself in a customer service conflict, how much do you strive to empathize with the person or business you are in conflict with? This applies if you are the customer or the provider. I think if we all tried to put a little more of this into practice, we can all greatly reduce the stress and pain in our day-to-day lives.

Examine what keeps you from empathizing with others. If you’re the customer service provider, is it because you have so many balls in the air you are juggling that you can’t keep up? A Virtual Assistant can take care of your essential administrative tasks so you can deliver even more outstanding results to your customers and clients. Click here to see what services you can hand off, and Contact us to see how we can partner to make great things happen for your business.