Shouting at Nice People who Work for the Council can Damage Your Health

07/08/09 | Posted by Poppy

That isn’t the snappiest title I’ve ever come up with but I’m fed up with people being angry. I work in local government and dealing with tantrums and hissy fits is something I deal with every day. I've heard every excuse under the sun for why people are angry but it doesn't stop them having a go at yours truely.

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There are notices in our reception space saying that the council will not tolerate verbal or physical abuse of its employees and that applies to the dramatic stuff such as knives being pulled or punches being thrown or the racist abuse. All that is taken very seriously of course. It is the lower level stuff that wears me down such as the whinging and whining and the blatant attempts at manipulation to get what they want and being a kindly and caring soul I do wonder what affect this heightened emotion and whining have on their health as well as mine.

One of Jesus’ most famous sayings it to ‘turn the other cheek’- it can be read here in verse 29 Luke Chapter 6 and most of the time I find I can do this. Most of the people who get angry with council staff are upset about other things and the poor person who picks up the phone and says ‘can I help you’ ends up with an earful because of months worth of frustration with life, relationships, health and it isn’t comfortable but it is part of the job. The satisfying bit is sorting out the problem so that Mr or Mrs Angry goes away as Mr or Mrs Happy. Most of the time the rubbish that is thrown at me is like water off a duck’s back, but not recently, it is all beginning to get to me.

The harder bit for me is further down the chapter “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” which is in verse 37. I find it fairly easy to deal with anger. As I’ve spent all my working life working with people and more recently with the more vulnerable groups in society, so I’m pretty good at working out when the anger comes from pain or frustration. The other thing that I can spot is when the nastiness comes from a need to hurt or manipulate other people. I find it difficult dealing with that second group as I want to see the best in everyone and some people make it very hard to do that.

I do find it hard not to to judge people. That is one of my failings and it doesn’t do me any good. Unfortunately there is so much fraud that goes on that anyone working in a part of the council where there are services available gets quite adapt at spotting the tell tale signs and we are supposed to be alert to it. Claiming to be disabled and barely able to walk, and then running across the council car park in full view of council staff is one of the more obvious ones in my opinion, but there all sorts of things that go on. It is really easy to get cynical and then judgemental with this sort of behaviour. There are so many people who are in real need and have difficulty accessing the limited services that are available and here are people who are milking the system for their own selfish ends. Look how good I am at being judgemental! I’ve found that when I get tired and stressed I look out for the worst in people, assume they are all frauds or jump to conclusions about motives that I can’t know about. It feels like a grey fog surrounding the soul as I begin to care less that I did. The good part if being able to recognise it and reflect on it. 

Yet another one of Jesus’ sayings is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” I would hope that other people would treat me with fairness and compassion and not judge me. I would hope that they could learn to manage their anger and the needs that fuel it and not find excuses for it. Recognising that there is a problem is perhaps the beginging of a healing process just as I’m recognising that I’m getting flat and stale. I suppose that by modeling calm behaviour when faced with aggression I am trying to live the ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your neighbour words of Jesus. It is only a small thing by one small person but next time you feel compelled to shout at a council employee or call centre worker just take a deep breath and look at yourself. What is the anger doing to you and where might it be coming from. Is it really worth getting in a strop about the bin collection or cold caller on the phone?

What might the anger really be about? Lack of control? Frustration about something? It probably isn’t really about the person on the end of the phone, so give them a break and don’t get angry. Maybe this could be the start of something healing.

As a follow of Jesus I would recommend prayer. Well I would wouldn’t I?

There is something about being still and placing the problem or concern in the hands of someone else that is very powerful. When things have got really bad I’ve imagined all my problems as strands of colour and in my mind rolled them up into a ball and thrown the ball at Jesus. So far he seems to have caught them - it was all that early practice with a bat and ball that helped (see July’s Blog.)  jMy mind works, in pictures; but simple prayers such as the Lords Prayer have been the staple of Christian Prayer for two thousand years. If you do feel that prayer might be helpful to you then maybe post a prayer on the site and hand some of it over. There is a link up on the right hand side of the blog.

Oh and be nice to council employees. Anger is bad for your blood pressure!

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I read recently that there is never an excuse to be angry and the more I think about it the more I agree. I’m joining you on this one.

#1. By chris on August 12, 2009

Thanks for writing this peice.  I work in the NHS- GP surgery and am often a) appalled at how rude an beligerent the public can be and b) how amazingly tolerant our Frontline staff are.
Applying Jesus teaching in the work place can be very challenging, but I too believe that I have to walk the walk and talk the talk; and placing my anger/frustration etc in His hands for just a few moments hleps me draw breath, and carry on turning the other cheek
Peace be with you

#2. By Pam H on August 13, 2009

I work in a toy shop and maybe unbelievably people do get very stroppy. They seem to forget that the people who work here are human as well. We can’t please everyone all the time, although we try and inevitably some people are very rude. I just try my best and try to treat everyone fairly and not get angry myself. Having faith in Jesus helps in stressful situations, Jesus knew (knows) how tough life can be.
Peace to you all.

#3. By Grace F on September 13, 2009

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