The Dreaded New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a time of reflection to make resolutions and set goals. A resolution is an idea or plan someone makes to improve their life. It’s important to know what you want and be specific about it to work towards your goal.

New year resolutions are often a source of inspiration for writers. Resolution is the word used to describe the promises or pledges made by people who want to change their lives.

We all make resolutions for the new year. But what about goal setting for the new year?

What are some of your writing goals? Mine include producing the monthly newsletter, blogging with a purpose, and maintaining a life/work balance that is healthier than in the past.

Successful writers set goals at least once a month but don’t just set them and forget them. They write them down and review them regularly. They adapt the plans in regard to time, unexpected circumstances, and changing priorities.

Successful writers often use SMART goals to help set their goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Let’s take a closer look at this model for setting goals:

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

• Specific – The objective clearly states, so anyone reading it can understand, what will be done and who will do it.

Avoid vague, broad goals. To see if your goal is specific enough, have an objective reader view the plan as you have stated it. Can they tell you your intent without further explaining from you? If there isn’t anyone personally available, I suggest utilizing a Reddit forum. Choose a sub that is based on asking the community their opinion.

• Measurable – The objective includes how the action will be measured. Measuring your objectives helps you determine if you are making progress. It keeps you on track and on schedule.

• Achievable – The objective is realistic given the realities faced in the community. Setting reasonable goals helps set the project up for success.

Don’t hobble yourself with wildly unrealistic goals your time allotment and abilities can’t support. If you find you are consistently not meeting goals, they probably need adjusting.

• Relevant – A relevant objective makes sense; that is, it fits the grant’s purpose, provides the community’s culture and structure, and addresses the project’s vision.

In a writing model, leave off personal goals such as health and relationships unless either impacts your writing to a point it needs addressing.

• Time-bound – Every objective has a specific timeline for completion.

Again, adjust as necessary. Be kind to yourself. If your writing motivation is waning, address the reasons before resetting goals.

It is essential to be realistic when setting your goals because it will allow you to achieve them successfully.

Eliminating distractions, staying flexible, and self-care.

Discipline and self-care are important in writing. So are self-care and being gentle with yourself.

Some tips that can help writers:

  • Reset your attitude every day. If you constantly put off writing because there are so many things to do in your home or others are demanding time from you, remember that your writing is essential to your happiness. Published, unpublished, whatever. Think about all the money, time, and importance some people place on golf. Or splurge on events or any activity they may enjoy. Your interests and pursuits are just as justified and valuable as anyone else.
  • Eliminate distractions by turning off notifications on your phone, closing your email app, etc.
  • Stay flexible by writing in different places, trying other times of the day, or even using dictation software to write instead of typing.
  • Interacting with family, particularly children, is essential to them and should be important to you. But you are not Mary Poppins; you have a life. If you are the primary caregiver, try setting up a timed activity where they don’t need supervision, one they will enjoy. Please don’t force them to do anything they don’t like, it will only make them resent your writing time.
  • Make sure you care for yourself by eating well, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep.

Self-care is vital for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for writers. Writers constantly risk their mental health by staying up late to write and not getting enough sleep.

It’s important to remember that self-care is a lifelong process. It’s not something you do when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, but rather an ongoing process of learning to take care of yourself.

Writers are often faced with the dilemma of balancing their writing career and their personal life. They think they need to find the perfect schedule that will allow them to work on their writing career while also taking care of themselves.

In reality, for writers to be successful, they need to have a sustainable schedule that allows them to get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthily and take care of themselves.

Many strategies can help writers balance their personal life with their writing careers. One could be setting up a flexible work schedule where they work from home when they want or need to. Another strategy could be working part-time so that they can spend time with family members and friends in addition to working on their writing careers.

Customer Service-Somebody’s Gotta Do It

It is essential to understand your boundaries as a customer service person and have them firmly in place no matter where you work. I’ve been verbally and physically assaulted while working in residential crisis centers numerous times. It was a necessary evil of the nature of the job, and I decided it was worth it. I decided, not my boss or the board of directors. I was the one receiving the abuse. 

The repetitiveness, the expected behavior, led to a day when I realized it wasn’t about me.  

But I understand the false chirpiness of a manager saying, “Don’t take it personally,” when another human being calls you names. A bully seems to know what buttons to push to make you defensive and engaged or end up crying in the back room. That is not OK. You are a human being. You don’t deserve to be disrespected and abused by anyone, customer, client, manager, or CEO. 

The harsh truth is retail work and customer service positions have always been a breeding ground for abusive people to take out their frustration on both sides of the register.  

The days are slowly ending where “the customer is always right .” The customer is often wrong due to a fundamental lack of understanding of how retail and office CSP positions work and a past acceptance of the attitude that if you work at that level for that low wage, you have to take it.

There is a distinct difference between dealing with an unpleasant customer and an abusive customer. If your boundaries are disrespected or even totally ignored, do what every hourly wage earner should do. Keep your resume updated and have active searches on all hiring platforms. Remember, you can be terminated without notice in a work-at-will state. The company does not consider you as a family (especially HR, no matter what they say), and they will always act in the best interests of that company.

It would be best if you remembered that in your life, you come first. You are your primary responsibility.

In handling a client or customer, both methods are almost indistinguishable. The only fundamental difference is customers purchase goods and items. In contrast, clients purchase services and professional advice. Other than that, the approach is essentially the same because you will always be dealing with a person controlling the purse strings. On a deeper level, the real trick in selling anything is understanding the group dynamics.

Mom might be with a middle school child who appears to have some challenging behavioral issues, and it seems mom is in charge. It then becomes apparent that the mom is buying the child’s approval, affection, whatever. She may have the legal obligation and ability to pay, but the child is the customer in control.  

You work in a pet store. Who is deciding what must be purchased today and today only, the indecisive man who keeps reading labels on products he does not understand or the labradoodle with the jeweled collar and hair bow taped to its head? If the man converses with the animal and asks the dog’s opinion, I hope you work in that pet store because you love all animals. Because Sir Jameson Snickerdoodle will need to be treated by you the same way his owner treats him.  

This situation can be tricky because, as a CSP, you will be walking a tightrope between showing respect to one person without alienating another. Customers include all ages, sexes, attitudes, and behaviors. All parties and there can be numerous persons involved in any retail/service, have various issues that they carry into whatever business or office you are in.  

This is a good thing. It doesn’t matter whether they escalate or are the sweetest person you have ever met. Every interaction allows you to either shine and show how terrific you are at your job or will enable you to engage positively with a negative person. The more combative or upset the client is, the better the chance for you to challenge yourself to handle the situation and turn it around.

And you can.  

However, if you have taken a CSP position, either virtual or physical, only because they are notoriously easy to get hired onto with little or no prior experience, and you need to pay the rent, but honestly hate dealing with customers, that’s OK. Use the position to learn about other jobs in that industry, whether it’s clothing, food, or an office position. Network with higher-ups and make yourself unforgettable. Perform that job at your highest level of ability. Improve yourself for yourself, and take that training and knowledge with you when you decide to leave.

Learning to deal with people in high-stress difficult situations will prepare you for uncounted positions where you do want to thrive and succeed. There is no loss in spending even a few years in retail. To quote an old song, “the times they are a-changing.” Workers are no longer willing to keep their heads down and take it anymore. But unfortunately, the immature hierarchies and petty back-biting you encounter in retail is an experience you see repeated in management and boardroom positions.  

People don’t change. Hone your skills in handling the masses, and you will reap benefits from those skills for the rest of your life.

Just don’t work Black Friday with Wally. There isn’t enough therapy to fix the triggers you will develop from that experience.

Establish a Client Relationship

One of the easiest ways to receive positive customer feedback is to establish a relationship with them as quickly as possible, whether in person, written, or on the phone. If it seems like a Herculean task to create a connection in such a short time, consider how great you felt after a recent interaction with a good customer service person. I doubt you exchanged any deep dark secrets. You made a connection with that particular person you remember to this day. 

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, of the five basic needs listed, love and belonging are third in order after biological needs and safety from harm have been satisfied. Humans need to feel cared for and that they belong.

Every interaction one human has with another can result in positive or negative reactions. I find that when I adjust my tone with each client, even going as far as inserting common phrases I may know are familiar to that client, I receive more positive reactions. I also adjust the speed and range of my words and use mirroring techniques to reflect the image the caller is presenting to me over the phone.

In person, I tend to stand whenever a person approaches my counter. I feel it gives the impression of attentiveness. I remove the counter barrier by walking around the counter to the customer side and standing next to them in a non-threatening position, i.e., shoulders turned slightly away, with lots of personal space. On only a few occasions, I have seen the customer tense up and lean slightly away. I immediately return to my side of the counter and maintain a non-threatening attitude.

I am as informal or casual as I think the client is in this situation. Professionals tend to expect a higher level of attention. Doing the same with a more casual client can intimidate them. Always remember what a client wants is what the client should receive. Of course, suppose your job position expects you to endure abuse or harassment. In that case, it needs to be with your full consent and understanding that you are an accomplished client service professional, developed to the point where you enjoy the challenge and can redirect the client. The owner-manager of the business sets the boundaries. But you decide if those boundaries are acceptable to you.

In another area, taking responsibility for any error or misstep is essential. If a client is upset, first and foremost, you need to evaluate what is wrong quickly. Clients may feel ignored and need attention, so they overreact to something simple to receive that attention. The act of offering a beverage, a particular magazine you know they like or offering to set them up in an empty office to review documents can calm them.

Evaluate: How a person enters an office or work area will tell you a lot about how they feel. If someone is having issues opening our heavy door, I go to them and help. I continue to evaluate their reaction to this act. If they seem offended because they need to feel capable, I back off and casually say, “I always have problems with that door, you’re much better at it than I am,” or something to that effect. If you can’t think of anything to say, don’t try improvising if that isn’t your strong suit. Brief periods of silence are golden. They effectively allow the client to take the lead and provide even more information. You will continue to reevaluate numerous times during the interaction.

Greet:  This is a huge sore point in most retail stores. Workers are often evaluated on greeting every customer. It doesn’t matter what the worker is doing at the time, even if already interacting with a customer. I find this counter-productive because the main reason, although not the only one, is that noticing a person upon entry will deter a shoplifter.

It doesn’t, in my opinion. The interaction with the customer at the POS (point of sale) is rudely interrupted. They feel less valued. The customer entering either isn’t aware they are being greeted and ignores the worker; or, even worse, they realize a second too late the clerk is speaking to them. They respond, then feel foolish because the greeter has immediately returned to the current customer. I usually make quick eye contact and nod to a new client entering the office without interrupting the current operation. While this works in my office, it doesn’t satisfy a retail manager who believes this is a theft deterrent. A seasoned CSP will find a happy medium and adjust to the situation.

(I placed “evaluate” before “greet” because I honestly don’t believe the quick greeting is necessary or practical compared to an evaluation of simple body language. You will do the greeting once a customer is in front of you. In retail, this will happen throughout the store and at numerous points during the sale.)

Listen: Let the client tell you, in total, why they are here and what they need. It will be challenging to keep your mouth shut and not interrupt and interject if you feel you have grasped the nature of the issue after the customer has said a few sentences. However, try only to nod and mirror appropriate emotions while they talk. Remember, the client probably rehearsed their speech before arriving, if only while venting to a friend or family member. Let them complete their rant and reduce stress as they feel validated and understood.

Take responsibility:  If there is an issue, first apologize by saying, “That shouldn’t have happened, and I would be upset too if that happened to me.” Some managers have a problem hearing their people say that phrase to clients. Notice I don’t say who is at fault. I focus on the issue, which shouldn’t have happened, but mistakes happen. Follow up with a firm, “I’m going to do everything I can to fix this.” Set expectations for the client without saying, “I can’t help you, that’s not my department, I don’t have the authority, etc.” Saying these things will increase frustration and stonewall any progress.

Engage the client in fixing the issue:  This is very different than dumping the problem back in the client’s lap, even if they need to take a particular action. Use phrases like, “I may need you to do A, but I can help you with that.” You stay involved in the solution by repeating an assurance of teamwork.

Suggest:  This is a crucial part of a sales interaction and is necessary for a professional office environment. Only suggest an action you can perform. Always under-promise and over-sell.  

Review the plan:  Whatever needs accomplishing next, repeat it in full to the customer to solidify actions they need to take (Calling a customer service number, finding a receipt, etc.) and what you are doing and going to do for them. Clarifying the situation reduces anxiety. 

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