How to Get Your Way with Customer Service

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As anyone who has worked in the service industry will tell you, you aren’t going to get anywhere by being mean to your sales person/bartender/customer service/airline representative. There are things they can do to help you – when they’re on your side – but when you turn them against you, consider your ship sunk. Nothing will make them get the kitchen to rush your food, or shift things around to fit you on that flight. Even though any good customer service representative will tell you they are doing everything in their power, if you yelled at them, they’re probably not.

With this as my rule of thumb, I’ve managed to get my food and get out the door when the kitchen is slammed, return pairs of boots that are over a year old, and get upgraded to first class on “sold-out” flights. Here’s how.

Use a friendly tone. If you’re really pissed, they will hear it in your voice, even on the phone. Take a few deep breathes, force a smile on your face, and then talk.

Be on the same team. Start by empathizing with the person who needs to help you. If bad weather threw your travel plans off course, I lead in with, “I know you’ve had a million people calling you, trying to change their flights.”

Make your case. Have a logical reason why you need the change you’re asking for. Will your friend be stranded at your destination because the rental car is in your name? Are you going to miss the wedding if you don’t get there sooner? Customer service representatives are people too. Try to pull on their heart strings a little bit.

But keep it short. They don’t need a 20 minute sob story. Summarize your spiel in a couple sentences.

Come with a plan. If you’re looking to be rebooked on a flight, research the options that are available online. Give them the flight number you want. Tell them you see that seats are available online. Ask them to give you one of those. If you’re trying to make a long-shot return, make sure you have your receipt ready, and the item you’d like for an exchange in hand. If you give them a solution, they’re much more likely to just go ahead and use it to get you out of their hair.

Be persistent. Offer to fly into or out of a different airport. In bigger cities, there are often options in another close location. Ask the same question, multiple times. If they say, “I can’t upgrade you to first class.” You say, “Other airlines have done this for me in the same situation.” If they say, “There is no connecting flight.” You say, “Can you look into other options out of that city on your partner airlines?” If they say, “There are no flights.” Hang up, call back, and try again. Sometimes just getting a new, more empathetic person will be enough to get your way.

Use a little humor. Joke that your friends are so hangry you’re worried for your safety. People are more willing to help you when you make them laugh.

Say thank you. Say it early, and often. Tell them you really appreciate them trying. You’re thankful they’re investigating other options. They are making your life by helping you out. If you’re already expressing gratitude before the job is done, they feel more obligated to give you a good outcome.

Say it again. Then, when they’ve finally caved and given you your way, thank them again and get outta there fast before they can change their minds!

Image by Petras Gagilas.

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4 Ways to Cheer Up when You’re Feeling Down

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There are lots of lists on the internet about how to be happier. And when you’re stuck in a funk, they can seem like a load of crap. But these four rituals from Time are backed by neuroscience (read: people who study your brain have shown they help). Next time you’re feeling blue, pull out these tricks, and try them for yourself. The worst that can happen is you’ll still be in a bad mood at the end, right?

  1. What are you grateful for? It can be hard to break the cycle of negative thoughts because guilt, shame, and worry activate the reward center. But when you think about things you’re thankful to have in your life (even if it’s the last thing you want to do), it releases serotonin in the same way. Even trying to find something you appreciate can help, for those times you can’t land on an answer.
  2. What exactly are you feeling? Giving your generalized yuck a name can reduce the emotion’s impact on your mood. Are you sad? Or anxious? Thinking about how you are feeling, instead of ignoring it and pretending everything is fine, reduces the intensity of the emotion you’re experiencing, so you feel less sad, less anxious once you’ve given it a label.
  3. Just decide already. Even making the good-enough choice instead of the best possible one in the world stops your brain from spinning like a top and gives you a little peace. Actively choosing to do something, to take action towards a goal also boosts your serotonin.
  4. Reach out and touch somebody. When you don’t feel love and acceptance from the people around you, it can by physically painful. The easiest way to feel connected to your fellow humans is a pat on the back, a handshake, or a hug – physical contact. Human touch makes you more persuasive, improves team performance, improves flirting (and math skills!), and reduces pain. Don’t have anyone to hug? A massage will do. Can’t afford that? Call someone and talk – it makes your body feel better in a way that texting just can’t do.

Still glum and gloomy? Check out The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, Ph.D., the man whose research is behind the original article.

Image by 8 Kome.

A Tiny Fitness Giraffe

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It’s pretty well agreed upon that exercise boosts your mood. It releases dopamine, and helps you sleep better which all equals feeling better. And who can look at a cute animal without feeling happier, amirite? They even make you more productive at work.

Now a fitness app combines your need for movement with your love of adorable stuff in one happiness generating exercise package called Tep. When you download the app, you’re given a darling (digital) pet giraffe you need to feed and care for – think the Tamagotchi pets of the 90’s. But here’s the catch. In order to earn essentials like food and drink for your little guy, and less essential decorations like hats and footwear (!!!), you’ve got to get moving.

Walking, running, and biking all snag you points you can use to keep the little buddy alive. So next time you think about skipping your workout for some quality Netflix time with your couch, you don’t need to rely on will power alone. If you don’t, your happiness, and your tiny giraffe that’s depending on you will croak.

5 Ways Being Selfish is Actually a Good Thing

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In our society (or at least NYC), many people pride themselves on how busy they are. It’s considered a badge of honor to have too.dang.much.to.do. And, I am 1000% guilty of overscheduling myself (even if it’s all with really fun things). The modern lady has work happy hours, ALL the wedding events, social time with friends, and – if that’s the life path she’s chosen, a spouse and kids to fit into the mix. All those responsibilities suck up the precious free time left after work, and can often lead to putting your own needs on the back burner while you run around catering to other people’s – even if you truly enjoy everything you’re doing.

We can all remember a time when we RSVP’d yes to an engagement when we were dead tired and broke just because we love our bestie. Or even when we had managed a few quiet moments to ourselves, FOMO struck and we got up and off the couch.

I came across this post on Mind Body Green explaining why putting yourself first is not only important – but crucial! – to happiness, and I think they’re onto something. Take back some time for yourself, and turn that FOMO into JOMO with these five steps.

  1. Pamper Yourself: Think about it, would you rather give someone you care about a worn-down, tired version of yourself, or the you who has blocked out time to take a nap and go to the gym?
  2. Don’t Volunteer: In other words, wait for someone to ask for your help before throwing yourself into action. Then actually think about it. Do you really have the time, energy and resources? If not, is there some other help you can recommend, and still feel like a good friend?
  3. Take a Time Out: Of course we can all push through a cold, or mild sickness if we’re not on our deathbeds, but should we? Taking a well-timed day off can make you feel better, and act happier, which will have a positive influence on everyone around you.
  4. Do What You Love: Don’t let your schedule be so driving it’s soul sucking. Don’t get stuck in a position you hate. Keep moving towards the things you like.
  5. Work as a Team: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, work with all those great people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Remember that it’s ok, and often beneficial for the project if you have more intelligent minds working on it.

What do you do to make time for yourself when you’re in over your head?

Image by Roman Pfeiffer.

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

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I was listening to a podcast the other morning (As friends of mine know, I start sentences like that a lot.). This particular one was about not, “interviewing your child for pain.” Basically, it was saying if you only ask a loved one questions about what went wrong on Tuesday, or call up your friend to see what terrible thing her ex has done now, you’re putting all of your attention on the bad stuff in life (and that’s not good!).

It struck a chord with me.

I can think of hundreds of times when I’ve been at bitchfests with friends where everyone is trashing a certain thing or event or celebrity. Isn’t that what a lot of work happy hours are all about? Complaining as a unit really brings a group together.

And I’ve noticed that when I’m telling stories about dates gone horribly awry, they garner much more attention than when I am describing the really sweet moment when a date was hopping around imitating my favorite Instagram bunny.

It made me think.

If we’re spending so much more time talking about the bad stuff, does it really impact the way we feel? Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace say Yes. “We live the story we tell ourselves – and others – about the life we’re leading.”

If that’s the case, don’t we want it to be a happy story? Shouldn’t we be spending more time noticing and talking about the little moments of brightness and joy we encounter in our days?

Then I read an article in the September issue of Marie Claire about a clinical trial to treat PTSD that is using MDMA (the chemical behind ecstasy and ‘Molly’) as a therapy drug. The piece described how it was having success because it let people access old, traumatic memories and reimagine them, interact with them, and put them back away with a different spin. It allowed them to heal and change a moment that already happened to them by changing the way they remembered it.

Studies show that we are hard wired to remember negative events – insults – for longer, and more intensely than our bodies respond to good events. Researchers say it’s due to the chemicals our bodies produce. Cortisol, the stress hormone, sticks around for longer and has a more dramatic impact than oxytocin, our feel-good hormone, that metabolizes more quickly.

If we’re constantly interviewing our friends and family about their heart ache, their bad days, soon they could begin to believe that’s all there is. Be empathetic, and by all means, be there for people who need you, but in day to day life, if we’re defined by what we focus in on, and our memories are changed by examining them in a different light, don’t you want to make sure you’re telling yourself a happy story?

Image by Mark Wathieu

Today is Going to Be a Great Day

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I have this awesome calendar that brightens my morning every day. It’s called Today is Going to Be a Great Day, and it’s full of gorgeous artwork like this one by Jill De Haan. Pretty, with an inspirational quote, and the best part is they have the artist’s name and site on the back so you can go to the site and purchase that page that caught your eye. And if you’re not really the tearaway-a-day type, they have the pages in book form: Think Happy, Be Happy.

Image by Jill De Haan

4 Ways to Deal When You Do Something Embarassing

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I do embarrassing things all the time. Wiping out in the middle of a crosswalk? Been there (more times that I would like to admit)! Walking around with deodorant marks on my black top? Sure. Totally misunderstanding what someone is asking me? Of course! The range of snafus is wide and the list is long. But what I don’t do? Walk around feeling all ashamed and humiliated most of the time. Chalk it up to having a mother who wasn’t afraid of making a public scene every now and again, but eventually I just stopped really caring what other people thought, especially when I’ve done something clumsy or a little odd. Here are 4 things that might help you cope next time potential humiliation knocks at your door.

1. Laugh or Apologize

If you’ve done something embarrassing to yourself, laugh at it. People will feel a lot less pity and a lot more admiration for how you handled the situation when they can laugh (at what is really probably a pretty funny situation) without you getting mad at them. It diffuses the tension from the situation when they’re waiting to see how you’ll react. Laughing works best when you’ve done something silly like trip in front of a crowd or tuck your skirt into your pantyhose. If you’ve done something that embarrasses you because you embarrassed someone else, like really putting your foot in your mouth in a meeting, the best route is apologizing publicly and immediately to show people that at least you realize your blunder. Then try to take corrective steps, and at the very least, just remember never to make that same mistake again.
2. Put it in Perspective
While it might seem like a world-ending humiliation in your eyes, to most other people, it’s a minor blip in one day where they’re really more preoccupied with their stuff. It helps to remember that most people (high school girls excluded) care more about their own lives than yours. If you don’t remind them of the embarrassing incident, they will probably forget in the time it took you to forget what the person sitting across from you on the subway was wearing.

3. Move Along
If you pick up acting normally like nothing happened, other people will take it as a cue that they should go back to normal business as usual as well. Even if you’re still cringing internally about how you could ever do such an embarrassing thing, regaining your composure, and pretending like you’ve gotten over it is the best way to deal until you actually have.

4. Remember that it Won’t Matter in 5 Minutes, Hours, Days or Months
I’ve found that most times I feel really humiliated in the moment, I end up describing the whole event in great detail a few days later to my friends with lots of laughs in between. While you might have to force the laugh when it’s happening, after the initial embarrassment has passed there’s usually a funny story there. And if your friends want to joke about it before you’re ready, a simple, “Too soon,” should quiet them down until you’re ready to laugh about it down the road. And trust me, eventually you will be.

How do you cope when you’ve done something really embarrassing?