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You sounded annoyed

© May 2008 Anthony Lawrence

We were eating dinner when my business phone rang. Ordinarily I'd just let that go to voice mail and call back after finishing up eating, but it just ten to five and I recognized the caller ID as a customer who doen't call with trivial stuff. I hesitated, but figured that he probably had something important and that he'd like to get out of there at five if he could, so I put down my fork and took the call.

Well, yes, it was important. He had a process he couldn't start because some other process was using the tcp/ip port it needed and he couldn't find it in ps. He asked if there was some way to find a process using a tcp port and of course there is: lsof. I told him that and explained how to use it (lsof -i:5000 in his case) and also mentioned that he should read the man page because lsof has a lot of other useful tricks. And that was that - maybe five minutes all told. My dinner had become a little cold but it was still good.

"You sounded annoyed", said my wife as I sat back down.

"I wasn't annoyed", I answered.

"Well, you sounded annoyed", she said, raising her eyebrows ever so slightly.

Well, OK, I was in a hurry to get back to my dinner, so I might have been a little short.. I ran that theory by her.

"Whatever - but you SOUNDED annoyed."

Hmmm. Okey, dokey, she's probably right. I was NOT annoyed - after all, it was my choice to answer the call, and I wanted to do that. I did not want my customer stuck with a problem at ten to five. Yet obviously I did want to get back to my dinner, and that must have crept into my voice. What I should have done was have immediately said "Hi - I'm eating dinner. If it's a quick thing we can do it now or I can call you back in fifteen minutes". That would have kept the tension out of my voice and have made my customer just as happy.

So, if you ever call me and I sound annoyed, keep this in mind: maybe something else is pulling at me, but I answered the call because I know you needed help. I'm not really annoyed. Stressed, possibly: I often have half a dozen balls in the air. But if I really didn't want to take the call, I wouldn't. It's that simple. I'm not annoyed. If I were really too busy or too tired or too anything to take the call, it would have gone to voice mail.

But I am going to try to remember to let people know when something else is tugging at my shirt.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> It's not good to sound annoyed with customers

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