Living: Connecting with Those That Serve

Some of my Starbucks Baristas

Some of my Starbucks Baristas

I’m still reading Brene’ Brown’s book Daring Greatly. I love blogging about it because I imbed the contents in my brain. What’s the best way to learn something? Teach it. I know that from work. So, in writing about what I’ve learned and trying to “teach” it in this blog, I’m really learning it. I read something profound a couple of days ago that I should have know all along. The light bulb went off, and I was stunned and convicted about my behavior.

Brown wrote about how our numbing behavior affects other people. I know that when I am in relationship with an addict or someone who numbs out, their numbness impacts me. The consequences of their behavior can impact me if I’m living in the same household, but the impact of the disconnection is the biggest loss of all. When a person is actively numbing out, they can’t be present for their own feelings, so they definitely can’t be present for mine. It creates a very disconnected relationship and a lonely household. They may be there in person but they are not there in spirit.

I believe, as Brown does, that we are hard-wired for connection. There are times when I connect with strangers just as much as people I know very well. If I stop to help someone do something, and we have a moment of connection, it can feel every bit as spiritually uplifting as a connection with a friend. Brown talks about how cell phones disconnect us from others. I have watched people, and have done it myself more than a few times, as they order a drink at Starbucks, buy a book at a bookstore, pick up their dog at the vet or any other small transaction, and they are talking on the phone the entire time. They point, make signals, etc., while the person is serving them. Brown described an interaction with a service worker. She apologized for taking a quick call durng their transaction. The woman teared up, and thanked her for saying something. “They don’t even see us,” she added.

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I used to work in customer service. I actually loved working in customer service, and I was at a call center. What I loved about it, and what made my day, was when I was able to help somebody, and we started connecting as people. It was the best part of my day. I imagine that being a customer service person is not as fun these days. What is the barista at Starbucks thinking as they are making change, wanting to connect with a customer, and they are being ignored, pointed at and treated like a machine? It’s got to take the fun out of it. No wonder customer service is deteriorating. I think customers are deteriorating. I worked at Starbucks in Valparaiso IN. I hated the drive thru. I loved serving customers that came in. I had a chance to talk with them, laugh, learn their names and their drinks. It was fun. The drive-thru was often very different. People just ordered, wanted their drink, paid and left….and frequently they b**ched at you. We had a young staff. One of the young men served a customer one day who was brutally nasty to him. He turned around in tears. “Why does she have to treat me like that?” he asked. “I was trying to help her.” The only thing I could tell him was that he only had to deal with her for 5 minutes. She has to deal with herself all day. I felt sad that he had to experience that kind of treatment.

I got a promotion to the correspondence department when I was at the call center. I thought it would be great! I’d finally get off that telephone and write and answer letters. Well, a phone call is once removed from a face-to-face interaction. People will say things to you on the phone that they would NEVER say in person. A person from Las Vegas was yelling at me to do something that I could not do under our policy. She asked me where I was. I told her Knoxville. “Well, no wonder!” she exclaimed, “all you inbreeds down there. You’re a bunch of idiots!” I can’t imagine she would have said that to my face. Letters are even more removed than a phone call. We got some of the most vicious, demeaning, angry letters every day. It was really depressing to know that people could be so hateful and unkind.

One of the reasons that I like blogging is it gives me a reason to connect with other people. If I talk to strangers anywhere, there is something that usually leads me to an impression……. which leads me to a blog. Once I get the idea for a blog, I have a reason to call people, ask questions of strangers and take pictures of people doing fun things. It makes everything more fun. My social anxiety is diminished when I have a reason to walk up and talk to a stranger. What I get in return is that it makes me really present for the experience. I’m listening, I’m engaging in my life, and I’m connected.

The day after I read that section of the book, I left my phone in my car when I ran errands. It was much more energizing to talk to the people I met than to multi-task. I tried to make them laugh or made small talk because I imagined they wanted that kind of connection to make their day more pleasant. Yesterday, I walked into the Starbucks I frequent at lunch, and, as soon as I walked in the door, the barista said, “A soy green tea latte, no foam? Right?” I smiled, “Yes, thank you so much for remembering me.” I felt very welcome and loved in a small way. I know sometimes I’ll still be disconnected and distant, but I’m going to make a concious effort to do better. We all deserve better.

2 thoughts on “Living: Connecting with Those That Serve

  1. I loved reading this post! I recently watched two of Brene Brown’s TED Talks and was very inspired by what she had to say. I’m looking forward to reading her books in the near future as well.
    I used to work in fast food and I loved being at the cash register so I could interact with other customers. I often forget how big of an impact a positive or negative attitude can have on a person’s day. This is a good reminder to slow down, smile and say “Have a great day!”

    • I was so glad she brought this up. I don’t do it often, but I do use my cell sometimes like that. She said one woman commented -with tears in her eyes- “they don’t even see us.” It broke my heart.

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