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TCarlsonFrom Our Psychologist...
Developing An Attitude of Gratitude

As Thanksgiving approaches, it provides us all an opportunity to give thanks for what we cherish the most. For many, it can be a special time to join with family and friends and express appreciation for the people in our lives and the blessings we have. However, it seems more and more that Thanksgiving is in sharp contrast to another holiday immediately following it, Christmas. Whereas Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to be thankful for what we have, Christmas so often encourages people to think about what they don't have and what they want. Children and teenagers all across the country are making their wish lists now for Santa, their parents, and grandparents with all the newest items just released for the Holiday season. Of course, many families have made a commitment to making the holidays more about religious meaning, a time of connecting with family, or an opportunity to give to those less fortunate. Although admirable, maintaining that focus can be incredibly difficult against the strong tide of the season, which pulls toward gifts, decorations, endless spending… If left unchecked, this can create overwhelming pressure to create the perfect holiday for one's family and friends not to mention a January full of stress and depression when the bills arrive!

Despite the materialistic culture we live in that is often enveloped in envy and greed, it is possible to maintain a stance of thankfulness and appreciation for what one has. Earlier today I found myself complaining to a friend about those never ending household chores and yet I quickly ended the sentence with, “oh well, that's part of life and at least I have a home to care for.” When I hear someone complain about a new scratch on their car, I respond acknowledging the frustration and disappointment, and yet also adding how fortunate they are to have a nice car to take care of. The truth is we all hate it when that newest toy or gadget gets a defect and some days the monotony of work, errands, and chores can be draining to say the least. It's easy to complain about long hours at the office, laundry that seems to multiply overnight, and cleaning up vomit from children or pets!  Being thankful doesn’t mean these things are fun or that we simply learn to enjoy them, but it does mean we learn to keep them in perspective.

The other day I heard about a radio talk show where the announcers differentiate between “first world” and “third world” problems. Obviously things like slow traffic, problems with your cell phone or cable TV, or the coffee shop messing up your order, all count as “first world” problems.  How fortunate we are to have such minor inconveniences to complain about. It is only when our basic needs like safety, fresh air, food, shelter, and clothing are met, that we are able to focus on these minor nuisances.  Of course, during certain moments when we are reminded of others who are less fortunate, it may be easy to be grateful for what we have. However, maintaining this “Attitude of Gratitude” can be easier said than done. Like most things we don’t want to forget, I encourage you to write it down!  In fact, make a list. No, not a list of errands to run, bills to pay, or your Christmas list!  Rather, I encourage you to make a list titled  “101 Things I’m Grateful For...” Put some time and effort into it.  Don’t merely list the items; also force yourself to write out what it is that you appreciate about it so much.  Of course, you'll quickly think about things like your loved ones, your health, your home, and perhaps a job that provides for you and your family. But I encourage you to also think of more basic things like fresh air to breathe, food to eat, and basic abilities we often take for granted like being able to see, hear, walk, and talk. When was the last time you found yourself thankful for any of those basic senses?  I am fortunate to get to work with many people who have lost some of these abilities and therefore I receive constant reminders of how lucky I am. I know that life can change in an instant and any of these things I am so grateful for could be taken from me forever. So I cherish them in every way I can, and I encourage you to do the same.

This holiday season, give the best gift you can to your family – teach them to develop an “Attitude of Gratitude.” Create your list and share it with others.  (For once, something that might actually be worthy of a Facebook post!) If there are people on your list, be sure to tell them how much you appreciate who they are and what they bring to your life. That may be the best gift you give this holiday season. It cannot be broken, it cannot be taken away, and it just might create a ripple effect of encouraging others to do the same.   Never forget, your attitude has a powerful impact on those around you.

~ Dr. Tabitha Carlson, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

JMcCasslinTherapist's Corner...
The Gift of Giving

We're here...Black Friday, Cyber Saturday, Cyber Monday, Early Bird Deals...and all the names I can't possibly think of that denote some sort of post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas special. It also means it's time to get crazy, put on the football padding and go shopping, right? 

My mother and aunt use it as their annual bonding uncle chaffeurs them around Lincoln and they SHOP. They don't just shop...they SHOP. On the years I've gone with them, I've given up about two hours into their two days. My calves hurt, my back hurts, my feet hurt, I get grumpy...and they're still going! My mom even started early this year, spending an hour in the dollar section of Target. She "claimed" a corner of the section and dug through everything, including the boxes the employee was bringing over to stock the shelves. My sisters and I stayed out of her way and told the frazzled employee it was practice for Black Friday.

But it doesn't have to be this way. The concept of giving, that idea of giving of our own talents, time, thanks and without the expectation of something in return, that concept seems to get lost in our consumer society. In the hubbub of I-got-this-at-this-price or I-spent-this-much-on-this-person, and yes, even the I-wonder-what-I'm-going-to-receive, the concept of giving can be overshadowed by money and a bigger-is-better attitude.

There are still people who make their gifts. They put their time, talent, energy, etc., into making a loving gift. Parents (and grandparents) love receiving those homemade gifts from kids. I've also seen where people are requesting "gifts of love/time/talent" (whatever you'd like to call them) instead of toys and more things that clutter homes. For example, maybe an aunt would "sponsor" a child's tee-ball season instead of buying a new Wii game. Or an uncle may choose to take a nephew on a weekend camping trip instead of getting him the newest Lego set (even though Legos are awesome).

What would the receiver get? Time, quality, life lessons, experience, diversity, exercise, bonding, social skills...the list is endless. There is only so much an item can do (even an educational one) before it is outdated or "forgotten" (we know it happens).

And what about adults? I don't know about you, but I'd be completely willing to accept a "Weeks' Worth of Dishwashing" or "One Free Housecleaning" as a gift! Handmade items or homecooked food are also amazing!

While I won't say "Stop shopping!" or "It's not worth it!" I encourage you to consider the gifts you're giving this year. Is it meaningful? Can it be useful? Does it really have to cost you an arm and leg? Could you make it yourself? Will it express your care, concern and love for the person to whom you are giving it? What's your motive for buying/making it?

Lastly, I encourage you to remember, 'tis the season for giving...but the attitude, the practice of caring and giving, the concept of expecting nothing in return and giving thanks when you do receive a positive return...those are the human characteristics, the qualities, the traditions we want to continue all year long and far into the future.

~Jessica McCaslin, Therapist

HainAFrom Our EAP...
Dealing with Angry and Difficult Customers

If dealing with irate customers makes you want to drive home, jump back into bed, and hide under the covers ... take heart. Once you know the tricks of the trade, angry customers become less upsetting and more acceptable as part of the customer service landscape. Here's how to diffuse overheated situations and win them over.
Listen First, Speak Later
The initial burst of anger from your customer will almost always be the most intense. And because it's so stressful for the person on the receiving end, flustered employees often try to end the confrontation quickly in order to ease their own discomfort.
This mistake usually leads to escalation. Resist the urge to interrupt, argue, or engage in problem solving. Instead, relax, slow down your breathing, and listen intently while nodding and making eye contact with your customer.
Apologize and Empathize
Your customer will eventually run out of steam and pause to collect his or her thoughts. When this happens, take the opportunity to apologize. An effective apology goes to the heart of what has upset your customer. For example, a customer who is displeased about an undisclosed $10 service charge is more likely to be angry about feeling deceived than about the fee itself. Address that anger specifically and empathize with it.
Example: "I'm sorry. That charge should have been pointed out to you at the time of your purchase. No one likes to be surprised by hidden fees."
Resist "blame shifting" or passing the buck. In your customer's eyes, you are the company, so don't take anything that's said to you personally. This is the secret to coping well with any customer service complaint.
Immediately after apologizing, repeat the customer's complaint to him or her. Clarifying the complaint assures the customer that you're concerned about the problem and helps you avoid further misunderstandings that may reignite his or her anger again.
Maintain a Calm, Positive Tone
You have tremendous influence over your customer's emotional state. (Although it doesn't feel that way!) Lowering your voice and speaking slowly and calmly in a pleasant manner relaxes and disarms an angry customer.
Take Immediate Action
The longer they wait, the more they seethe. Make the unhappy customer your top priority. You want him or her to see you as an advocate, not an opponent. Start by asking what resolution is desired, and begin working toward a solution.  If you can't find an immediate answer or solution, take the lead in phoning the customer back. Jot down contact information and outline the corrective steps you will be taking. Include the names of everyone who will be involved in the solution.
Example: "I'm going to send this purchase order to Sarah, our inventory manager. She'll order the correct part for you. It should be here on Tuesday. She'll call you at the number you provided. If you have any problems, please contact me immediately and I'll help you resolve it. Here is my card."
One of the biggest drivers of customer anger is feeling like they're getting the runaround. Taking the steps above assures your customer of the following facts:
  • He or she is valued.
  • You have a plan.
  • He or she won't be abandoned.
  • You will be accountable and available for follow-up.

Follow Up "Tough Cases"
An angry customer is not necessarily a former customer. So, don't write them off!
A follow-up phone call or message a few days following the resolution of a complaint sends the message that you care about your customer's satisfaction and well-being. Most customers just want to feel valued. This technique builds super strong loyalty.
You can't please everyone, but you can improve and enhance your company's image and responsiveness in every dispute. The more you practice these techniques, the more success you'll have calming customers, winning them over, and reducing stress.

No one is superhuman. An unusually stressful incident involving an angry customer can leave you rattled. If a violent or near-violent incident took place, you certainly may benefit from support, even if it is just talking about it. If a stressful incident leaves you lacking energy or a positive attitude, contact us for practical tips and targeted help.

~Anna Hain, EAP Coordinator

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