Count On Composure

I’m raising my daughter with a foremost principle that I trust will serve her well: Always treat others with respect, kindness, understanding, and composure – even when others don’t treat her with the same accord – and she’ll go far in life. No, it won’t always be easy, but it will prove successful.

As one with a disability and in my public roles, my striving to live that principle by example has proved a key component to my own successes. From rude airline agents to angry customers to people publicly criticizing me, I approach all others with respect, kindness, and understanding, believing that no matter how others behave, it’s no reason for me to respond poorly, that under all circumstances I should offer others the levels of respect and kindness that I wish. As my mother said when I was growing up, two wrongs don’t make a right, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar, and an eye for an eye only results in two blind men.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a consistently forgiving world. Many people do believe in an eye for an eye, where you reap what you sow, where they’re glad to throw the ball back at you even harder than you threw it at them, not calming situations, but exacerbating them. And, that goes for the wheelchair world, as well.

It amazes me how many wheelchair consumers believe that screaming at their providers will help resolve their wheelchair issues. Are wheelchair issues frustrating? Sure. Can providers act like uncaring, unprofessional jerks? Absolutely. Yet, the fact is, treating others rudely – even people who seemingly deserve it based on their own attitudes – makes situations worse, not better, including when it comes to wheelchair service.

Sure, when you’re frustrated – your chair’s in the shop, and your provider’s not returning your calls – complaining, threatening, and yelling seems like a natural reaction. After all, doesn’t complaining, threatening, and yelling get a provider’s attention? Of course it does. But, does it get results?

Usually not. If the provider is ethical and inspired, he’s likely doing the best he can in working with your chair, and treating him with complaints, threats, and yelling isn’t going to speed up the process. In fact, such antagonism will likely slow down the repair, as the time that could be spent fixing your chair may be directed toward having to address your upsetting phone calls and emails.

Likewise, complaining, threatening, and yelling at an inattentive, jerk provider can also do nothing more than make the situation worse. Even jerks don’t like jerks, and just like angering a rogue airline agent can result in your luggage being rerouted to Timbuktu when you’re flying to Orlando, antagonizing an already less-than-ideal provider might cause your wheelchair to end up at the end of the repair line. No, it’s not ethical, but neither is raising heck with your provider – and when two poor attitudes collide, an eye for an eye can ensue.

Fortunately, composure proves beneficial in almost all circumstances – that is, the principal that I strive to live and instill in my daughter, that addressing others with respect will bring positive results. Just as jerks will prove vindictive to other jerks, jerks will almost always respond positively, at least in small ways, to respect and kindness extended to them. No, being nice in a frustrating, combative situation isn’t easy, but it is fruitful – and it’s the surest way to positive results.

Now, some might say, “Mark, my provider is already an unconcerned jerk, and I have nothing to lose by treating him as poorly as he treats me – I’m going to show that jerk what it’s like to deal with a real jerk, me!”

Again, there’s no value in that position – there’s no opportunity for progress. The opportunity for progress is in getting your provider on your side, where he helps you because it’s the ethical, professional, understanding role to serve. And, sometimes, like it or not, it’s up to you to set the example, to set the standard – it’s up to you to demonstrate that respect deserves respect.

Certainly, treating everyone, including providers, with respect, kindness, dignity, and composure isn’t always easy, and doesn’t always guarantee the positive relations that we seek. However, as a whole, composure will succeed over complaining, especially when it comes to wheelchair service. The next time you find yourself ready to blow steam at your provider, remember that while anger is easy to vent, it’s not so easy to live with, where it can harm your mobility. Save yourself some grief in dealing with your provider by maintaining composure, and see if respect, kindness, and understanding foster progress in the situation.


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

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