At Your Service: March 25, 2009

She smiles – that is, the corners of her mouth rise and the lips part enough to reveal the edges of her teeth. The dark light in her eyes reveals that she is anything but happy and gives the smile the appearance of a sneer. “Welcome” falls from his lips like a tooth spat out at the end of a fight. It has been a long day and more people means it is likely he will have to stay open late.
These are hard times for many and it can be harder than ever to appear cheery when customers arrive. It is, however, more important than ever to put your best foot forward or your business will be the one suffering.
Some would say that under these circumstances you should “fake it ‘til you make it.” The assumption being that if you pretend to forget about your worries, you eventually will. I think that is taking a trip down that river in Egypt – don’t go into “de-Nile.” Denial only leads to other troubles and increases the chances that among the new bills you must pay will be one for a therapist. There are things you can do to spark genuine positive feelings that will make it easier to interact with customers with sincerity and warmth.
Whether our worries are tied to the current financial crisis or simply the woes of day to day living, it is a mistake to let them interfere with the way we earn a living. Not having that income will present another set of even more critical problems. Instead of brooding, shift your focus to things that you can do to alter your situation and your mood.
Those who practice the art and science of Zen or yoga, would recommend that we begin by breathing deeply. Taking a few deep breaths will help to clear the cobwebs of gloom by increasing the oxygen to your brain. Worry and anxiety tend to shut down the blood vessels and short circuit the brain. The more air you get into your system, the better you will feel.
When our attention is placed squarely on what we are doing in the moment, other issues fade into the background. Find a job task that needs doing and concentrate your energy on doing it well. As you work, you will find your spirits lifting as a by-product of the feeling of accomplishment. In this moment, you are doing something that is productive. Follow that task up with another. When customers interrupt your progress, consider helping them to be another task you can do well. Before you know it, the day will fly by and you will find yourself feeling much better than when you started.
You can also lift your sprits by focusing on the people you work with or serve. Rather than pasting a fake smile on your face, look at the person and find something about them that is interesting. It is easier to generate a positive result if the thing you focus on is something pleasant. Does this person remind you of someone you love (she wears her hair the same way your Aunt Alice did)? Look for something in their attire (his shirt is a color you like). Find things that give you pleasure and indulge in those good feeling, if only for a moment.
When all else fails, remind yourself about the spending power the money will give you. Even if it is less than you want or need, it is more than you would have without the job or customers. Additionally, it affords you the opportunity to do it all again tomorrow – and as everyone knows, “the sun will come up tomorrow”. Even if you hate the song, I’ll bet it put a real smile on your face.