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”Angry Callers, What’s a Receptionist to Do?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I am a receptionist in a small magazine company. Sometimes I get calls from irate customers saying they got a bill that their dues are late, but they say they’ve already paid. They ignore the instruction on the bill to disregard if it’s been paid. These calls upset me and I end up arguing with these folks. How can I get them off the phone quickly and still keep my cool?

Front Desk Stress

Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Stress:

Your question reminds me of what many people are taught as they train for service professions — the customer is always right!

On a more serious note, one reason why people have an exaggerated emotional reaction to a situation is if they have done something similar and feel guilty about it. I find myself wondering if you have ever called a vendor and been irate about a typographical error or something of that nature?

Your question touches on a syndrome that is typically caused by a sense of guilt that many experience as they react to situation, and they project their anger on another, thinking silently, “How dare you accuse me of

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