Saturday, March 3, 2012

Off his meds? Or off his rocker?

Don't you sometimes wish you could invoke call screening after you've picked up the phone?
When you work in public relations or public affairs as I do, you sometimes get phone calls that are difficult to deal with. Of course, there are the expected calls from journalists who may or may not be sympathetic to your point of view. But I'm thinking more of the phone calls from ... people. Who are, perhaps, working in a different reality.

At a previous job, I had a colleague who had the patience of a saint. She had a frequent caller who would talk her ear off about his concerns and how urgent it was that senior leaders in our organization react immediately. He managed to track her even when her phone number changed. He was never rude or threatening, but his concerns were always just a little unhinged.

In his military career, Steve has dealt with calls from "tin-foil hat wearers" who were convinced that the military was doing things that caused strange things to occur. [Undoubtedly, the military has done such things, but not under Steve's purview.]

I've had those calls, too. They upset me in the same way that street people do: they are unpredictable, they don't follow the conventions in which I find comfort. They don't seem to take hints, they don't listen, and they will talk endlessly!

I feel torn between wanting to say, "You are delusional, dude," and treating them like any other [sane] person on the planet.

Over the years, I've gotten better at confidently interrupting and saying things like, "I'm just going to interject ..."

My objective is to be kind but also clear that our conversation has reached its max potential; we are done. I'm not above giving false assurances. ("I'll be sure to let so-and-so know.") But I also don't want to imply that we are developing a relationship.

How do you handle these interactions? Do you ever pretend that you're Mulder and that there really is a conspiracy and that this caller has the "truth" that is "out there"?

1 comment:

  1. My fave was a letter claiming that military radio waves were causing a farmer's goats to miscarry. The response was patient, polite and reassuring. I really wanted to advise the farmer to wrap her pregnant goats in tin foil.


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