The absence of a message is a message.

When my coworker said this during one of our weekly calls, I didn’t quite understand what she meant.  And then I visited our neighborhood post office…

Conflict management

I should mention that our post office is known for poor customer service (per Google reviews).  Not only have I experienced it for myself, but I’ve witnessed postal workers snap at customers for no reason at all.  Hostile USPS alert!

During my most recent visit, I remembered my coworkers words and adjusted my attitude accordingly.  Let me explain further.

*PW = postal worker

Me: Good afternoon!
PW: How can I help you?
Me: I would like to mail these two packages via Media Mail.
PW: These packages only contain books?
Me: Yep, only books.
PW: What kind of shipping would you like?
Me:  Ummm.  Media mail…?
PW: That’s not a kind of shipping. –> This is when I knew how the interaction was going to play out.
Me: Regular shipping is fine then. –> Dumb answer, I know.  But I really didn’t understand her question.
PW: There’s no such thing as regular shipping. –> Said as she mockingly laughed.
Me: Blank stare.
PW: Do you mean standard shipping? –> Said in the most condescending tone ever.
Me: Yes, please.  That’s fine. –> I wanted to snap right back, but instead, I took a deep breath and used as few words as possible.

PW weighs packages, I pay, etc…

PW: You’re done.
Me: Thank you.

Just because I didn’t snap back doesn’t mean I didn’t want to say more.  Trust me, I did.  I also wanted to “accidently” knock all the boxes and envelopes off the shelves as I walked out, but I didn’t.

As annoyed as I was, I came to realize that by not responding to the PW [the way I wanted to], I still sent a message and learned something in the process.  Not every situation warrants a reaction.  Sometimes people are going to unkind/rude.  This has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. 

The absence of a message really is a message.  Even if you are the only one who really gets it.

By Parita

19 thoughts on “A Lesson in Conflict Management”
  1. OMG. I have totally been there and felt what you’ve felt before! It’s so hard not to react to someone when they’re acting a certain way to you. When I come across things like that, I do what my coworker says: “When someone snap at me or mocks me, I just stop and think, ‘They must have something going on that is contributing to this mood. Look past it.’..” It’s hard don’t get me wrong, but it does help sometimes to just stop and think that maybe they don’t mean to be rude either! It’s just one of those days and two people with a negative attitude won’t help anything. Glad you were strong and had the strength to not snap. I might be guilty of not doing that :-X

  2. I have such an issue with people who act like they hate their jobs. I understand that everyone has bad days now and then, but being rude to others because you’re unhappy is the WORST.

    I think you handled it well. I’ve had similar encounters with postal workers (in Seattle) and it made me mad enough to ship most of my stuff from Seattle > Florida via UPS. Ugh! Like Dixya said above, being extra nice is great retaliation, sadly I think it’s lost on some people.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…Friday FiveMy Profile

  3. I love this, P! Although it’s not always easy to consider at the time, think about the number of customers that worker probably interacted earlier on who DIDN’T control their behaviour and words. While that’s certainly no justification for her rudeness, it makes it a bit more understandable. If anything, hopefully the way you handled yourself had a positive influence on her interactions with customers who came in after you!! After all, kindness is contagious!!
    Khushboo recently posted…Back to the basicsMy Profile

  4. I feel bad for the PWs because they are obviously SO UNHAPPY from coast to coast. I don’t let them get to me anymore because I know that there’s no point.

    PS: I request packages to be sent Media Mail all the time!!
    Ameena recently posted…sugar. lots of sugar.My Profile

  5. I agree – not every situation needs a reaction. I’ve learned those experiences are often reflections of what I am feeling / thinking and it’s me that needs to take a moment to be still and get myself centered again. Those types of interaction are reminders for myself to be in the present.
    Kamana@SocialandStyle recently posted…#DCDining – PansaariMy Profile

    1. Agreed – so many lessons come out of these kinds of interactions. Lessons that help me grow as a person. Good point!

    1. That’s a great way of thinking about it, Tazim. Sometimes I ask myself “Is this going to matter 5 minutes from now? 5 years from now? Etc.”

  6. This is so hard to do, though, right? (Or is it just me?) I would handle the situation like you did above because first of all, I totally dislike confrontation. But inside I would be saying a million things. Sometimes I get pleasure out of ‘killing them with kindness’ but to be honest, sometimes I feel like I would be doing everyone a service if I took 30 seconds to give some honest feedback about how the encounter could have gone much nicer. Tough one.
    Taslim Jaffer recently posted…Watch This!: Learn, Laugh & Love #3ThingsThursdayMy Profile

    1. I agree, Taslim. I try the ‘kill em with kindness’ approach often, and sometimes I too wish I could just tell someone how rude they’re being. I don’t think that would work in every situation though…unfortunately!

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