Dreading that call to customer service? You might make a friend.

by Jordan Green

Few people call customer service with the idea of making a friend.

All too often, we view interactions with call center workers, cashiers, car hops and more as mere business transactions, and we try to run away as quickly as we can.

But could that be because we’re really just afraid of talking to someone new? A couple of days ago, I had a wonderful time talking to a representative at an internet provider’s call center.

I was making arrangements to return some equipment, and while dealing with the matter, the man and I spoke about all kinds of topics.

If he weren’t several hundred miles away, I think we’d be great friends. We talked about his family and how his wife came to the U.S. We also talked about how he’s climbed the ladder at his company so he can provide a wonderful life for his children.

He’s planning a really cool vacation for his family in the next few weeks. And we talked about faith, our values and what we hope to do in the future. What started out as a relatively simple request for service turned into an hour-long phone call that left us both feeling like old friends.

Isn’t it amazing how two people who’ve talked only for a short while can really have a bond?

This is one of the highlights of human life.

Some parts of human nature never change, and the ability to make friends is something we’re all created with. Even in this day and age, when our affixation to cell phones and information keeps us from talking to people as often as we should, we can still make friends and have deep, meaningful conversations – if we’ll make the time and effort for them. But for some among us, talking to new people is difficult.

The idea of striking up a conversation with strangers is nearly unfathomable for some. You may have experienced great fear before shaking someone’s hand for the first time or speaking that first sentence to someone.

We’ve all experienced anxiety about something before, but we don’t have to let it keep us bound up. Everyone can be – and make – a good friend. Many of us here in the Midwest are familiar with Paula Deen, the famous and beloved TV cook. Before she ascended to stardom, she had to overcome a severe anxiety disorder call agoraphobia.

According to www.GoodTherapy. com, the disorder is “characterized by a chronic fear of feeling anxiety or panic in a place where one is unable to escape or get help. For this reason, many people with agoraphobia are hesitant to leave their homes, unwilling to go out alone, or visit only familiar locations.

Some people with the condition experience panic, generalized anxiety, and other issues classified as anxiety disorders.”

Deen called living with the disorder “pure, unadulterated hell” in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

She struggled with it for 20 years. If she hadn’t overcome the disorder, she never would have found the success in life that she did. Her story of conquering the disorder has been chronicled in several publications, including her popular biography.

She credits prayer and spiritual reflection with helping her overcome the anxiety, and today, she thrives.

It’s estimated that about 1.4 million Americans struggle with the disorder she did, though many people who have anxiety about being around people don’t have as much as a person with agoraphobia.

So, if Paula Deen – who had more social fear and anxiety than most people – can overcome her fear of being around people, so can anyone. So can you.

I’m not a therapist and wouldn’t pretend to be one, but if you find yourself struggling to make friends and develop meaningful relationships in life because you’re afraid, I’d encourage you to talk to a pastor, a counselor or a trusted friend or loved one.

Beating anxiety will take time, effort and practice, but as you face your fears, you’ll find you have a gift inside you waiting to be unleashed: the gift of friendship, something the world needs on display more than ever before.

The reasons why some of us face social anxiety are varied: past hurt from someone, fear of safety in public spaces, low self-esteem, you name it. No matter the issue, though, we’re all made to make friends – and no matter the obstacle, you can overcome it.

My new friend at the call center is a really nice guy to talk to. The next time you have to call that 800 number you’re dreading, think about it as an opportunity to make a friend. You just might find that the call wasn’t so bad after all