What Chris Can Teach Us About The Anatomy Of Compassion

Chris was a good engineer. He was one of a dozen engineers on his team to answer service calls. Methodical and thorough, Chris was well respected by his team members. Still, he was not the star type. Quiet, a little shy, never seeking center stage, Chris’s focus was on the task at hand. One day his team took ownership of a new service contract. JD was the chief contact on the client end. Within a couple of weeks it became clear that JD was a demanding and extremely high maintenance client.  Every Tuesday or Wednesday with no exception, the phone would ring and JD would be on the line, sometimes even twice a week. If that was not enough, JD did not make his calls easy on the team.  He was impatient, angry and thankless.  The team felt that his calls were abusive and obnoxious. JD was “burning” one engineer after another. Within a few weeks, there was absolutely no one prepared to take his calls. People learned to recognize his voice and when they heard it, he was immediately transferred to Chris. Chris was the only person on the team who was ready and willing to service JD’s calls. He would patiently reply, talk JD through the technical issues and resolve every problem presented. Chris never seemed to get offended or upset with JD’s demeanor. He serenely and compassionately solved the problem and moved on. It quickly became a legend that Chris was somehow able to handle the most difficult client the company had, and that slowly, gradually, JD began to change. Not that he was pleasant but he seemed to respect and like Chris, even when he remained difficult for anyone else to handle. One day someone asked: how can you be so understanding and patient with such an abusive client? Chris replied: Every time I take the call I remind myself that I have to deal with this man for twenty or thirty minutes, but he has to deal with himself all day long, seven days a week. This thought immediately fills me with compassion.

This week, when someone annoys you and you are about to lose your temper, think about Chris. Realize that most often frustration and anger is an expression of people’s own pain and struggle, which they are unable to contain or rebalance. Remember, they are not against you; they simply struggle to live with themselves. Have compassion for them. Remember they have to live with themselves all the time. If they behave this way with you, it must be very difficult for them to live with themselves. Be thankful you live with you. Understand that at times you have to deal with people in great pain, and you cannot always help, but you can have compassion for them. Live and let live.

© Aviv Shahar

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