Spoiler: It’s about being a quiet person and the aggravations inherent therein. Pirates, ye be warned. (I know that doesn’t make any sense but that part from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie just popped into my head so whatever.)
Also I’m using the term “quiet” because in my experience there are two types of people: the people who say, “She’s just quiet,” as a way of understanding what my deal is, and then there are the people who say, “You’re shy and that needs to change.” I think both words have negative connotations but I’ve had better luck with “quiet” so “quiet” it is.
A thing happened to me at work that I guess I’ll talk about, but first I have to explain that this specific thing is part of a long list of things that have happened to me throughout my life, mostly earlier on, mostly by various educators. The thing usually goes like this: someone who barely knows me but who is in a position of authority over me will get it in their head that I’m “too quiet,” and that I need to be fixed. They will then dig in their heels, refuse to budge on anything they might be doing on their end to contribute to said quietness, and will instead deliberately put me in different, anxiety-heightening situations that are supposed to “toughen me up” and this is all “for my own good” and will make me “come out of my shell.” A teacher once told me that he “picked on” me a lot because I was so quiet. And I smiled and laughed a little bit and then went home and imagined all of the horrible ways he might die so that I wouldn’t have to deal with him the next morning.
All right, I don’t think it ever got as far as wishing death on people, but I have noticed that the correlation between all of these people who take this special, particular, SUPER FREAKING FLATTERING interest in changing my personality 100% is that they are all astonishingly horrible at their jobs. But. That might just be my bias talking. But. It isn’t. Because I’ve always checked my experiences against my peers’ experiences with them and they’re always terrible, even with the social butterflies, so maybe there really is something in there about being so closed-minded and unapproachable and lacking in basic empathy that it makes you just all around incompetent. And they are certainly never as charming as Tigger. But I don’t talk much so I GUESS THE REST OF THE WORLD WILL NEVER DISCOVER MY IMPORTANT FINDINGS.
What happened was that Disney was in town holding a workshop on improving and excelling at customer service. My organization sent the entire customer service department, and they had one extra spot open. I’m assuming they deliberated over who else to send, and there were probably some choices that made sense, but for whatever reason none of them could go. So then they considered me.
I do interact with the public almost every day, as do other people in my department, but we’re given very little guidance, so sometimes my coworkers will brush peoples’ questions off very rudely and I’m sure that makes us look really great, and makes people really want to give us money. So for that reason, having someone from the animal department go to learn customer service strategies made plenty of sense.
I’ve also always wanted formal customer service training. I’m a good listener, and even though I often try to fight it because it’s exhausting, my first instinct whenever someone approaches me is to listen to what they’re saying and look beyond that to try to understand what they’re feeling so that I can see the situation as fully as possible from their point of view. That’s always the worst when someone accosts me who has neglected their animal in some way, because after listening to whatever sob story they give me my entire soul hurts because most of these people don’t mean harm but they did so much harm and reasonably they should have known better uuuuuuuuuuuugh why
I think my point was going to be that I think, ironically, my quietness makes me a naturally good customer service person, despite the fact that it isn’t in my job description. I’m so interested in strategies for deescalation and conflict resolution that it’s not even funny. So when I was told I could go if I wanted, I was very excited.
And also very, very offended.
Because they didn’t say “Oh we need your department to start working on this” or “Oh I know you have a keen interest in this topic” (TO BE FAIR no one knows I have a keen interest because I didn’t say it ever). No, instead, they said, “Because it’ll give you tips and tricks to get over your shyness.”
So first of all, obviously no. Obviously, a customer service workshop isn’t going to completely change a person’s personality and it isn’t even going to try. I knew that at the time, and after the workshop I knew it even more. They did mention that their hiring process is very focused on picking the right people for the image they want to portray, but even then, what the dude said was “We hire happy people,” not, “We hire outgoing people.” I don’t know about you, but I for one have met many, many outgoing people who have absolutely horrible people skills. Like, atrociously horrible. Of course I’ve met quiet people with awful people skills too but I think whether you have people skills or not is not based on whether you’re quiet or outgoing, introverted or extroverted. It’s likely more about who taught you what along the way.
I’m pretty sure Disney would never hire me. I’m too stiff. But I do endeavour to be friendly all the time, and that usually comes easy to me. I also am well aware that I come across as intimidating and guarded to some people, and I consciously work at limiting that (because I am the least intimidating person on the planet. I mean I got sad pulling a cuterebra out of a kitten’s face because it’s just a baby fly trying to live it’s life). And with that in mind, I’m not entirely sure that anyone working closely with me could give me a report that clearly shows my work performance being negatively impacted by being a quiet person. Which makes me question why anyone feels the need to try to fix me at all.
At school it was one thing, where they claimed that the fact that I didn’t raise my hand meant that they had no way of knowing if I’d retained any information (to which I say: THEN WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ALL OF THOSE TESTS AND ASSIGNMENTS THAT I ROUTINELY DID VERY WELL ON). At work it’s another thing completely.
This unwanted attention on an aspect of my personality that does, sometimes, get in the way, but is still something that I’m OK with overall, doesn’t do anything to help me improve my work performance. All it does is bring me back to memories of being a helpless kid at the mercy of all of these adults who did not and would not realize that a) I wasn’t going to change and b) that wasn’t the end of the world.
I don’t have a conclusion. I just wanted to complain here rather than go pay for therapy, mainly because if I were to go to a therapist I’d have to pick one that wouldn’t decide to try to cure my quietness. I will say that the customer service workshop made me want to go to Disney World which is no small feat because there are too many crowds and last I checked even their salads had steak in them which, just. Why. Also, I never saw any of the characters up close but I think I might actually drop dead if Rapunzel or someone talked to me. I’d be like Troy with LeVar Burton.
“YOU CAN’T DISAPPOINT A PICTURE!!!”
I’ve never related so much to a sitcom character.