Before I'm back in my home office, my office phone rings. A different woman's voice is on the other end: "I'm calling from the Patriot Ledger." Before she can go on, I say, "I'm not interested in getting the Ledger," and smack the phone down.
Instant remorse. Within seconds I'm agonizing--have I have just mouthed off all snarky-like to a reporter calling to interview me about my latest book? Probably not. But still, it's one of those lessons I've learned the hard way...even when you don't feel like it, BE NICE! Because you never know which call or event or person will turn out to be THE ONE who gives your career that little extra noodge. Not to mention the fact that there's entirely too much negative energy floating around in our universe, why add to it?
Sometimes you've just gotta suck it up and smile 'til it aches. Have you found that it pays to always always always play nice, and that breaks can come from the least expected places?
JAN: When I was in high school, I took a six week job telemarketing for the local paper. It was the hardest six weeks of my life. I'm always nice to telemarketers, even as I dismiss them. I'm a little harder on people looking for charitable contributions -- especially police or fire organizations -- since I've done a lot of stories about fraudulent charities and paid soliciters who get 75 percent of the take. I ask A LOT of questions and sound like a hardass, but I still try to be civil.
And yes, I think the world has enough negative energy in it to fuel a power plant. I think that both negative and positive energy are sort of contagious. So why not spread positive energy --even if it isn't even related to a big break.
I should add that I think its equally important to stand up for yourself. And not be "nice" when you need to be direct and honest. Ah,but determining which way to go.... that's the fine art.
HANK: The voice on the phone says--oh so casually, and friendly-like--is John there? My husband's name is Jonathan, and no one calls him John. So this ain't no friend. My hackles go up. Suspicious.
No, he isn't, I say. Hissing. May I take a message?
When they say no, I stop them. Who is this,I demand? And it's always someone raising money, and pretending to be someone Jonathan knows in order to get him to come to the phone. I truly hate that.
But when there's a little voice on the phone, a tentative person who's a telemarketer, I say--look. I know you're just doing your job. But I'm never never never going to buy whatever you're selling. SO you'll be better off calling someone else.
And if someone calls to ask me to take a survey, I always do it. I'm such a dupe. But I think they get money if someone answers the questions, and I figure, why not. They might be--a poor college student. And I am lucky and happy. So many times, you do something, and then it turns out to have roots and legs and ramifications. And you wonder--wow. What if I had...or hadn't...
But, yeah, Hallie. I can see where you would have a moment of wondering--was that the book editor who wanted to do a big article on me and now he/she is calling (insert competitor here) because I was rude? It wasn't, of course. (And a reporter would have called back, right?) But it may have been the universe sending you a little signal. So thanks for passing it on. We can all use it.
ROBERTA: Here's my new screening technique: When someone I don't recognize asks for me--or my husband--I say we're not home and can I take a message. The telemarketing types say they'll call another time. What are they going to do, insist I'm really me? And Hank, I never answer surveys unless it's related to a product I already bought. My life seems to be so full of tedious little time-wasters these days. And that makes me a little crabby...and that makes me rude when interrupted...which isn't good for the universe's energy...
I think I'd better go pop my yoga tape in right this minute.
RO: I had to laugh...I'm in Charlottesville VA now for the VA Festival of the Book. I called my husband last night and he picked up the phone and snapped "Don't call here!" I thought..that's it, he's finally sick of me and the endless tour..or wait a minute...is Bambi there? Did I interrupt something? Of course I called right back and he explained that he had gotten 3 telemarketers in a row and he was convinced I was a fourth.
Generally when there's a half second of silence before someone asks to speak to me, I just say no..assuming it's a telemarketer. I hate to talk on the phone anyway. I'm much more of an email person.
HANK: May I just add? If you call me at home I probably won't answer. My husband and I always have a litle flurry of--you get it. No, you get it. No, it's going to be your mother. No, it isn't. Then we let it go to voice mail.Why should we do what the phone tells us to do? (Hallie, how did we get to talking about this instead of about being nice?)
HALLIE: Because we're all stressed, and besides, it's so much more fun to talk about being snarky.