Empathy for Traders

Suffering is – not getting what we want, getting what we do not want and when things are different from the way we want them to be. Our desires shape what we “want.”  Much of what we get and the way we get are in our control.

Some patients are scared of doctors. They take a lower status and plead for help and relief from pain. Some doctors show arrogance and lack compassion for patients. Such doctors seem to be concerned only with the task of reducing the physical pain and not with the human misery.

Pain is what the world does to you; suffering is what you do to yourself.

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.

 A doctor may reduce the pain. Suffering can be reduced only with a team work between the doctor and the patient.

In many schools, the management and teachers take high positions while dealing with parents and students. Many high-end schools tell the parents “take it or leave it. You find another school for your child if you don’ like our ways.” There is little scope for feedback and dialogue. If education is a business for the management, schools become teaching shops rather than temples of learning. The principal of the institute where my daughter started schooling was a Roman Catholic priest. He treated parents and students like sinners.

We desist from discussing the attitude of government offices towards citizens as much is being debated about it as part of the anti-corruption movement.


That is one part of the story where we have others to blame. These are not the only kind of people we transact with, nor the majority. How do we behave in our daily dealings with traders, call centres, financial institutions, and service providers? We often forget that we are the main beneficiaries with the wares and services we get.

Call centres are a boon as they provide solutions with least strain on the caller. They save time and energy and increase efficiency of the system. When we reach a call centre we are greeted with a trained friendly voice, “This is ABC. How may I help you?” How often do we say “I need some help” when we reach them? Mostly, we start with complaints, with an unfriendly arrogance. We make all efforts to prove that the company represented by the call centre is not providing quality services and goods. The call centres have sheaves of stories narrating how arrogant, inconsiderate and ignorant the callers are. Who benefits when the support call ends? Who should work towards making it a success? Both.

Consider an error committed by an organisation and you visit there to get the it corrected. We go with a prejudice that the staff would be non-cooperative. We also are loaded with a self-induced suffering that we have been wronged. “How dare they… how callous they are…” We forget that the person facing us is only representative of the organisation answering for possible errors probably committed by someone else. We pounce upon him. Can we start the conversation with “can you help me?” rather than ridiculing the person and his colleagues and the organisation? Try it. Such approach bears wonderful results.

When we visit a local grocer or stationery shop, should we think he is there to cheat us and bloat or with a gratefulness that he is reducing our efforts by making goods available next door?

In a meaningful transaction both the parties gain. If one wins at the cost of the other’s loss, we lose an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

We choose to suffer by not understanding our own role in transactions. It is not the ego, but the result and the net gain that is important in a transaction. We can inject some care, compassion and empathy to our dealings with every other human being and reduce our own suffering.

Let us realise that the customer too can show empathy towards traders and service providers. They are important to us.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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