Assume good will

Several years ago, I logged onto the website of a car-sharing service of which I was a member. I wanted to reserve a car, but when I tried to do so, I got a message saying that my account had been cancelled. My immediate reaction was ‘what is wrong?’ followed by ‘oh no, are they blaming me for something another member did to a car I reserved?’

By the time I stopped by the corporate offices the next day, I was quite irritated as I had had to reschedule my plans when I couldn’t get a car. Despite the adrenalin pumping through me (which, I admit, was disproportionate to the situation), I took a deep breath and decided to start the conversation assuming that no one was trying to screw me over and that the situation was fixable. As it turned out, it was a mistake that was remedied then and there by the receptionist.

That experience made me realize how often I went into similar situations ‘loaded for bear,’ as the saying goes. I resolved that going forward, I would assume good will on the part of the other person, at least initially. It was amazing how often I discovered that a simple mistake had been made and was easily fixed or that I was the one at fault (which made me glad I hadn’t embarrassed myself by raising a stink right off the bat!).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my share of help desk calls and in-person encounters during which I was tearing out my hair. More than once, I’ve hung up from a call with an abrupt good-bye rather than stay on the line and verbalize my internal cursing. Let’s face it, sometimes people are incompetent or poorly trained or having a bad day and it’s frustrating when one has an issue to be resolved.

What brought this to mind is that the other day, I picked up my permesso di soggiornio, my ‘permission to stay,’ the process for which started shortly after I arrived here in September. The first step involved filling out a sheaf of papers in a packet picked up from the post office. Once completed, I had to go back to the post office to pay the fees and register and mail the papers. Everything I had read online from other ex-pats led me to expect a horrible experience, but I walked into the post office muttering ‘assume good will’ as if it were a mantra.

The man at the post office could not have been nicer. His English was excellent, which was a plus, but he was also helpful and accommodating, for example, offering to hold the papers for me while I went to get more cash and telling me that I could skip the line when I returned and come directly to his window. That step completed, I made three visits to the Questura over a period of four months, each time waiting hours for my turn at a window. It wasn’t fun, especially the day I waited for an entire morning for a procedure that took 15 minutes, but I tried each time to approach the experience with an assumption of good will. Did it make the process go faster? No, obviously not (!). Was it a lot less wear and tear on me? Yes.

It’s just a suggestion, but assume good will!

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