threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Value of words July 25, 2011

I just got off a phone call that has me thinking how easily words are used, written, and exchanged without any concrete value or meaning or intent. Especially conversations with service providers that often feel scripted especially when I have an issue with a product.

Imagine the frustration and headache for new immigrants who must navigate the countless multi-tiered systems in America. There is no such thing as “simple”. For example, if you are a victim of fraud. Someone steals your bank card and goes on a shopping spree. Naturally, one would expect a phone call to the bank which would lead to a freeze on the account and begin an investigation. In a couple of weeks you would have your restored funds because they are FDIC insured and a new bank card… WRONG!!! After getting through navigating the 1-800 automated system, you may be fortunate to reach a life rep who will make promises only to appease you and get you off the phone. Followed by an email with forms and further instructions…and the headache continues…words…

Photo courtesy of AEGEE Alicante

Promise “make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done” (Dictionary.com)…Words that create expectations.

My Grandparents often told me stories that demonstrated the power and value of one’s word. Land was bought and sold by verbal agreements. Even today traditional marriages reflect this custom, two families agree that two people are married.  One can imagine how coming from this way of thinking and acting, it is natural to believe and trust the words that are spoken.

My time here in America has taught me quite a number of things. I believe that one of the most important lessons has been to use my words wisely, speak up, ask questions. Silence is not golden, in America it is deadly. Sometimes you may encounter unfair situations that would make you want to …

Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson

And sometimes you have to be assertive and aggressive to get what you want…it may not be my nature, but I had to adapt to survive.

Have you encountered similar situations where you had to adapt to new ways because your beliefs and cultural expectations were a handicap for you? Please share your thoughts 🙂

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One Response to “Value of words”

  1. Efifie Says:

    I agree with you that one has to learn to be assertive and aggressive to get what you want especially with the way the service industry is designed in this country. I have learned that before I start a conversation with any service provider/agent, I must have a clear goal in mind! I am sure most of you have had experiences in which you called for one issue and then ended up being signed up for something totally different! Remember that although the “customer is always right” , at the end of the day it is a business!
    I had the classic experience yesterday of how options vary with service providers depending on who you speak with. I called about a surprising increase to my minimum store credit payment and since I was calling after 8pm, I spoke to a representative in India. My goal for the call was to have the late fee that was incorrectly assessed on my account removed! The first agent clearly did not know what they were doing which was off putting but I am very patient and understood that it may have been their first day (or maybe not..lol). The second agent who was a lot more confident and seemed to know what was going on assisted me with my issue. After what seemed to be 15 minutes of trying to land on the same page, he finally agreed to waive the fee if I pay over the phone. Now mind you I was fine with doing that since my payment was coming up soon. Here comes the kicker…..”ma’am the payment over the phone will cost you $14.00″…What? I told him no, I can just pay online right now and my payment will be on time! He said that he cannot waive the $25 fee without a payment today…. Now knowing what I wanted, I told the guy that I have no problem paying the incorrect amount online and calling back to get it waived! I mean why should I be charged over the phone when I have never been charged on other occasions?He asked me to hold a moment (I guess to pretend to talk to his supervisor…) and came back letting me know that I will not be charged for the transaction. I got my confirmation number and was done! If I had not been assertive about what I want, I would have given in and paid that extra fee when it was not necessary. I only learned how to interact the right way through my work and life experiences with service providers. I have tons of stories I could share about the value of words. This was the freshest experience on my mind! Silence is definitely not golden in these situations! One has to GET LOUD!—-


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