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Courtesy Gets You a Long Way

Please be aware that this entry is over two years old. Therefore, it may contain broken links, outdated information, or views and content which are no longer completely valid.

If you have ever had to call tech support, you’ve probably noticed the polite tone that they use when addressing your problem.  The least you can do is extend them the courtesy of being polite right back.  After all, they are *required* to be polite, no matter how verbally abusive you may get (they can be fired if they step out of line).  You, on the other hand, are not held to it, other than by your common sense or moral compass.

Verbal abuse rarely gets you want you want.  Much of the time, people will drag their feet or even ignore you and your problem if all you do is yell, scream, and curse.

Remember to say “please” when asking for something, and “thank you” when you receive something.  Also be sure to acknowledge the effort that the support technician may be putting forth on your behalf by telling them that you appreciate their undertakings, or words to that effect in your own vernacular.

The same applies when going to a retail store, however with one slight difference.  Since you are physically in the store, you must also watch your body language, as well as your speech.  Smiling and saying “thank you” while giving a birdie behind your back does not count as acceptable, courteous behavior.  If you refrain from making the obscene gesture, you would be doing just fine and dandy.

The other thing to remember is that store policy is usually the law of the land, except in situations where it may seem unjust, such as forcing employees to stand in the display area on one leg (of course, this cruel and unusual punishment may be warranted if they happened steal one of the legs off of the boss’s chair).

When faced with a disagreement, be polite, and acknowledge that you understand their rules/policy (rephrasing or paraphrasing the rules back to them often goes to establish that you fully understand them and proves that you are indeed listening).  State what the problem is calmly and slowly (in other words, don’t spit everything out so fast that it sounds like one long word all tied together) and then suggest (not demand) a possible solution to the situation.

For example, saying something like “I would be willing [to accept a refund on the defective product],” would open the door for negotiation.  This will show both what you want/expect, and that you are open to discuss other possibilities.  Usually by offering a suggestion, it implants the idea into the service representative’s mind as to what they may be able to do to solve the problem.  Sometimes you will get what you ask, sometimes you will have to negotiate and concede that what you suggest is unreasonable, and sometimes you will get more than you ask for originally.

9 times out of 10, if your request is reasonable and you are courteous and polite, you will usually get the outcome you want.  If you yell and scream and otherwise prove to be a complete annoyance, the service representative will often look for the easiest and speediest way to get rid of you without exerting much effort on their part.  In other words, you probably won’t get what you want.

Remember to be rather agreeable overall, but not so much as to allow people to walk all over you.  For example, if you have, say, a car, and someone offers to buy it for $5 when it’s worth $50,000, all you would simply have to say is “Sorry, it’s not for sale.”  Very easy, quick, and leaves no room for negotiation.  The other route would be to scream about how insulting it was to offer $5 for the expensive car…but that would waste a lot of time and simultaneously raise your blood pressure.  The polite way ends the exchange quickly and effectively without escalation or incident–leaving you free to go along on your merry way.

There are more words in the dictionary than the clumsy and heavy handed list of epithets, also known as the FCC’s dirty 7.  The overuse of any word gets irritating after a while, and whoever is listing to you at the time may give up actually listening to the content, and start counting the number of times you say a certain word or phrase (such as “like”, “whatever”, “dude”, etc.).

So, by following these simple tips, you are more likely to get what you want, and improve your quality of life and the lives of others around you overall.  Now, it does take a bit of practice if you are not used to doing many of these things, but there are many people you bump into during the course of the day, as well as many situations that arise from those meetings.  Take advantage of these simple situations and work the magic that is courtesy

(Originally published on a now-defunct blog)