Stories from my Past: Good intentions aren’t enough

Since I work in customer service in technology I often enjoy reading and hearing about other people’s customer service experiences. I asked one Subway worker if she ever had a customer she found difficult to deal with and she related this story.

While I was making his sub he was judging me and saying things like “What did you do to end up here? Is your mother ashamed of you?” and telling me what to do with my life. I couldn’t take it and threw his sub away and told my other worker not to help him. As I was listening to her we had spoken on many occasions and she had shared with me that she was in school and working to improve her life. She was a minority and short, so it would be easy to understand why someone might feel this job wasn’t a good fit for her. She had shared with me in the past that this job was a stepping stone to greater things she was working on, and her life was on a positive slope.

The reason I am sharing this is that too often we might do something we think is helping, (like this guy clearly thought he was doing), but it has the opposite effect. I have said before that good intentions aren’t enough. I have learned in my own mistakes that if you listen and ask someone how you can help them, it makes all the difference than just deciding for them and trying to fit them into your values. Here is another example.

I had a relative once who was older and smoked and didn’t take care of his health. I would go over to his house and clean and offer to help him thinking I was being helpful. It did not help him. It just enabled him to sit at his table chain-smoking and not doing things he needed to do. It was amazing that he could be happy in doing such a simple and boring action. He ultimately died of cancer and I often wondered if I was enabling his behavior by “helping” him. It may seem altruistic or saintly to help others but you have to critically think of things and ask yourself if doing things they should be doing for themselves is really helping them. I have realized that for me, I can only share my experiences but I cannot do the tasks in others lives they should be doing themselves. Certainty you can give someone a ride or do an occasional task, but ultimately everyone has to work to create the life that best suits them.

Don’t assume you understand the situation and what someone else needs. People would rather be asked how they could be helped than just to help. A side rule I’ve learned is that when someone is complaining about something, rather than jump in with suggestions I ask “Are you venting or asking for my help?” Then I don’t have to offend them and make them feel they can’t handle it, or I can just listen and let them vent. This works especially well in office situations.

Credit card offers from LinkedIn?

Has anyone else received credit card offers from LinkedIn? I received one today and I was very surprised. I didn’t think that LinkedIn had enough personal information on me to be able to qualify me for a credit card. I was complimented and a little concerned as well. Complimented that someone thinks that highly of me, and concerned that perhaps they have been profiling me from other consumer data.

Credit cardsIt is the strangest thing about credit. You get credit when you don’t need it, or you are positively the worst person to give it to. I had a girlfriend in the past declare bankruptcy and as soon as she did, the next week she started receiving an avalanche of credit card offers. This made no sense to me. Why would you give credit to someone who obviously got into trouble? This was in the past around 2005 so credit seemed much easier to get then.

However years after the recession, I have friends now who are barely paying their bills and getting credit card offers. They don’t have extra money to spend, yet these things tempt them into spending. Wouldn’t it be nice for companies like credit card, smoking or other harmful activities have to have some kind of screening and good intentions before they can present their offers? Too often money is made when people who are ignorant or desperate get into situations that they aren’t fully disclosed the risks of. Of course it is not easy to research every decision, and often things are hidden to the customer. To me, anything that has more downside than upside needs to be third-party evaluated that has no financial motive before that choice is made.

Money too often is the motivator for bad actions, and if we could take that motivation away then we wouldn’t have much of the confusion and problems we have. As a society when we allow people with bad intentions to profit from unfair knowledge then it only serves to make things worse. Part of the purpose of this website has been my attempt to share and educate from the lessons I have learned in life. You have to carefully evaluate your choices and consider both short/long-term consequences of action. Mistakes will always happen, but as a society we seem to be learning that some things are not acceptable.

Take for example today it was announced more protections for consumers against credit bureaus who benefit from selling data on individuals to the system. Now they have to be more responsive and responsible, and that will only help consumers. Any system that doesn’t have transparency like the murky financial system is going to be abused by those in the inner circle. I am so thrilled that the Consumer Financial Protection bureau is doing work that is helping millions of people. As a society we are learning that being fair is important, and one way of being fair is being transparent and honest in our interactions. Yes!