Dear Rachel,

As I’ve grown older, I have tried to control my temper better and been fairlyI have tried to control my temper successful. Unfortunately, there’s one area of my life where I find this infinitely challenging to the point where I go ballistic: customer service.

It’s an oxymoron, if I ever heard one.

First of all, reaching any customer-service representative these days takes ages, as you have to enter numerous choices to get to the place where you then have the privilege of waiting 20 minutes to an hour to speak to a real person. Once you get them on the line and tell them why you're calling, they first have to identify you. After they are convinced that it’s you and you explain your situation, they have to put you on hold numerous times to check several things. If you’re lucky, they will be able to help you, but more often than not, they’ll tell you to call back or to call a different number or to provide more information.

They’re usually very polite, but that just infuriates me more.

How can I keep my temper in check when I have to deal with such inefficiency and an utter waste of time?

– Customer Service Challenged

Dear the Customer Is Always Right,

You’re right. Calling customer service can be incredibly frustrating. The people who hate it even more than the callers are the people who work at it. It’s a thankless job where you have to be polite all day to people who you’re trying to help, and who show their gratitude by yelling at you and calling you names.

Not fun!

There’s no question that this process is frustrating,It’s a thankless job but until someone comes up with a better system, we have to grin (or grit our teeth) and bear it.

Though we work to stay patient, we can start to get riled up because the whole process is slow and aggravating and so, we lose it!

But that’s not right. The Talmud says whoever gets angry, it is as if he is serving idols (Shabbat 105:B). Since serving idols is one of the three cardinal sins, you want to avoid that at all costs.

So let me suggest how you can deal with this situation more productively.

Be in the right frame of mind

It’s important to realize that everything is ordained by G‑d. Whatever stress, challenge or problem you’re dealing with is not being perpetuated by any individual—and certainly not by the stranger on the end of the line who you called. This person is but a messenger for what you are supposed to go through, which ultimately is for your own good and your own growth. Remembering that will help in not feeling anger towards any individual or your situation. (See what the Tanya says about anger.)

G‑d gives us daily tests to help us work on our character traits. These tests happen despite our best preparations because no matter how in control we try to be, we often aren’t.

Now, here’s some practical tips of what you can do.

Minimize your wait time

Getting through to the person you want to talk to may require a sequence of numbers and extensions. But this is only a problem the first time you call. Write down the sequence of numbers requested for each company and keep them on file for future reference. So let’s say when you call your telephone-service provider, you have to enter your telephone number, your secret code, your bank info and No. 3 to speak to someone. Keep that on record and the next time you call, enter the numbers without waiting to be asked.

Use the time on hold productively

For that interminable wait, prepare something to do in the interim. Open your mail or sip your morning coffee, do the dishes, say Psalms. Use the wait time to catch up on something you don’t usually sit still long enough to do. That way, you’re not only getting the call done, but some chore as well. Now instead of being aggravated, you’re relaxed and productive.

Realize they are trying their best

OK, you’ve finally reached somebody. See the people on the other end of the line as trying to do their best in a situation where they’re often limited in what they can provide. These representatives are constrained by the same bureaucracy that’s bothering you and are often not allowed to think outside the box to find resolutions. And remember, this is their livelihood. Have the same compassion for them you want for yourself.

Be polite and prepared

Don’t be abrupt or impatient to the service representative. Be as polite as they are, even though you’re not being paid for it. Prepare all the information you will need in advance and know exactly what you need to ask. They will be able to help you better if you’re informed and coherent. If the person you’re speaking to is not being helpful, either ask for a supervisor or say goodbye and call back another time, when you might get a different representative who may be more experienced.

Think of customer service as the World Series of anger management. And then, believe you can hit a home run.

At your service,