A woman with a heavy accent called my office yesterday from an unidentified local number. She asked for our accounts receivable department. I told her that we didn’t have an accounts receivable department so she asked to speak to the owner. After explaining that I was one of the owners she said that the credit card they had on file needed to be updated.
“Which company are you calling from?” I asked because she hadn’t stated it at the beginning of the conversation and I could hear the chatter of operators in a call station in the background.
“Uh.” She paused, shuffled through some papers, and eventually came up with the name of a Canadian company that we do business with.
Consumer advocacy groups are always warning people to not give out personal or financial information over the phone and since the call was originating from out of the country but re-routing through a local number I was cautious. I told her I would look into it and contact the company’s local representative directly to update the information if there was a problem with the account.
She became hostile and rude saying that I was obviously not the owner as I stated otherwise I would be able to deal with the credit card information on the spot.
Her reaction was strange. There is a possibility that she was legitimately authorised by the company to collect the information, but whenever someone becomes aggressive it raises red flags.
She is just a woman trying to do her job and earn a paycheque. Maybe she was having a bad day and couldn’t muster her normally pleasant disposition. Maybe she has challenges with communication and wasn’t able to clearly represent who she was or what she was doing. In which case, I should be patient and understanding, right?
Or, maybe my instincts were correct and she was working on behalf of a company trying to defraud me. In which case, I should blow her off, right?
I was torn between being polite and matching her tone. Most people want to be seen as a nice person, but there is a line that gets crossed when the other person is not nice to you.
It is possible to act “nice” and not be kind. It is also possible to be a kind person without coming across as particularly “nice” depending on tone of voice, bluntness, and body language. In a situation where someone is being aggressive or trying to take advantage of you is being nice and accommodating the best reaction? Is being nice on the surface worth anything if it’s not rooted in genuine kindness?
A person who only acts nice on the surface typically remains silent or caves in when there is a conflict or a situation that is emotionally charged. A genuinely kind person will speak up. A kind person will advocate for equality, justice, and fairness even if it means rocking some boats to make sure it happens.
A person who only acts nice on the surface tends to bottle up all of his or her needs and buries the resentment and anger that results from being taken for granted by others. Genuinely kind people are comfortable stating what does and doesn’t work for them while striving to reach a win-win compromise that could work for everyone.
A person who only acts nice on the surface will lie in order to preserve an image of being a good person. Genuinely kind people know that the truth is the only way to actually understand each other and reach peaceful solutions.
People who only act nice on the surface are so busy tiptoeing and side-stepping to please and avoid hurting people’s feelings they forget which direction they were supposed to be moving in on their own journey. Genuinely kind people move forward on their path with as much patience and compassion as they can despite nay-sayers or criticisms.
There are many people who will argue that being nice is more important than anything else. I’ll argue that being genuinely kind is more important and that in some situations being too nice will put you at risk of being taken advantage of. Ideally, we would all be nice and kind. I’ll keep working on it.