Standing Up For Yourself With Kindess

Today was a day of administrative chores. One of the deep wisdoms I’ve learned from owning my own business is that administrative work is also working. Going to the bank to make deposits, the post office to mail out books, answering emails from clients, going to the mall to take the computer to the Apple Store–all that is work. Hard work. In my case, hot work. It was 106˚F. And I came home and wondered “What have I accomplished today?”

The short answer is “Work. I did work.” And the longer answer is, “I stood up for myself. With kindness. And that was the most work of all.”

There are many reasons people treat anyone else rudely–they are tired, angry, you look like an easy target because you look different, belong to a minority, don’t look like them. But it hurts. It diminishes people. It feels unresolved.

I decided that part of my work today was to return to the eyeglass store because my glasses, which I have now worn for 10 days, do not help me see clearly. What I’ve been chewing on the last 10 days is not the fact I don’t see well. Rather, that when I mentioned it at the fitting, the staff passed me back to the eye doctor who ran me through the eye test again,  lightning fast, not giving me a chance to decide if I really like 2 better than 1, or if there was a difference between 3 and 4.

When I told her that I was an artist and a writer, and needed excellent vision, she sighed and said, “Oh, yeah, right.” She then said that the prescription was fine and left the room. I followed. In the hallway, in front of both store employees and other customers she said, “I TOLD you it would take 10 days for you to get used to the new glasses, but I guess you DIDN’T LISTEN” I felt as if I were 80 and had wet myself in public.

So today when I returned because the lenses on my sunglasses had a light leak at the edge of the frame, I mentioned that I had been treated badly by the doctor. The woman got the manager, and I repeated the sentence. The manager said, “Everyone loves Dr. X”

And this is where I stood up for myself. I said, “Dr. X treated me disrespectfully, scolding me in front of three staff members and five other customers. I was humiliated. But most of all, I cannot see clearly out of any of the glasses that I just paid $668 for. I want to have glasses that I can see clearly with. If you cannot provide me with a doctor who will solve the problem for me, I will go to an ophthalmologist who can, and I expect you to pay the full fee. Can we discuss these choices?” I spoke clearly and calmly. And I smiled at the manager when I was done.

She stammered at first, said that it was impossible. “Which one of the choices is impossible?”

“That you go see another doctor and expect us to pay.”

“It solves the problem that you could not solve. I have another suggestion: I return the glasses and you return my money.” I was still calm.

She looked scared.

“Please tell me your solution,” I said, still calmly.

“How about we let another doctor examine you and see what the problem is?”

I agreed to this solution, because it is on the way to getting me glasses that work. So now I have an appointment, and I worked hard today.  I stood up for myself. Not with anger. Not by insulting people who were not involved, but with kindness. And that was the hardest work of all.

-Quinn McDonald is an artist and a writer and needs glasses that correct her vision to 20/20, which she does not find unreasonable.

33 thoughts on “Standing Up For Yourself With Kindess

  1. Bravo, sounds like you handled this one admirably! I’m a 24/7 wearer, with an expensive and complex prescription. I’ve suffered similar abuse at the hands of corporate chains. I’ve found a reliable lab, with an iron clad satisfaction guarantee. Priceless.

    I found your site whilst researching the difference between a “journal and diary” for my yoga class. I really like the content, style and kindness in your posts, so I’ve now subscribed (and posted this blog to my facebook page:). Thanks Quinn.

    • My brother-in-law is an optician, and as long as I lived on the East Coast, I got such excellent service. Now I have to “make do” but I should be able to get the same quality lenses. I’m so pleased you found us. I say “us” because without my smart, funny and clever commentors, this blog would not be nearly as much fun and interesting!

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is one thing to say “act in kindness, not anger” but it is much more helpful to teach by example. Anger seldom solves a problem, and yet it is the emotion that comes first (at least for me). Thank you for showing how you were kind, even while you were struggling with anger, and how you practice living with your own integrity. Powerful stuff at an eye doctor clinic!

  3. I had to chuckle a wee bit and also commisurate with you reading this post while at work. It was the picture of both color plates that caught my eye (no pun intended.) As someone who is a “fan” of yours but also who has been working in the field of ophthalmology for the last 20 yrs (omg. has it been that long?) I can empathize with you. If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know about optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, office staff, and what it is like to work with them, I would say you handled it extremely well. Doctor X was not only rude, but unprofessional, and probably is not a nice person outside the office either. To treat you in this manner especially in front of office staff and other patients is clearly uncalled for. I cannot say I would have handled it as calmly as you did. More power to you. People don’t quite know what to do when they are being killed with kindness. I would also add that if they can’t straighten out the problem with your glasses, and or can’t explain why (like early signs of cataracts- which are normal lens changes to your eye and everyone gets them if we long enough) I would certainly go to an ophthalmologist who is a medical doctor who has been to medical school and more years beyond that. Perhaps you can go on line and google the doctor you saw today and leave a “nice ” comment on a review for her. Sorry for rambling. I just had to offer this.

    • I love the color-blindness plate with the dollar sign. Of course it isn’t real, but it just worked so well. As someone mentioned earlier, if I had tried this a few days ago, it may not have worked. I had to work very hard at being both clear and kind. But my point was–I did it. And I”m proud that I made the effort. Thanks for cheering me on. I will go to an ophthalmologist if I can’t get a good answer. I need to know about my vision’s future as well as the ability to get it corrected.

  4. Quinn,
    You inspire me with your forthrightness to get what you needed. Your self control and your calmness is truly an example to follow. It is possible to communicate what you want without over reacting or being rude.

    I wish you the best with getting the right prescription for your vision.

    Be refreshed,

  5. A simple suggestion: Keep a small spiral notebook and pencil with you at all times. When you encounter any person who is disrespectful or refuses to address your issue, ask for her/his name, title and supervisor’s name. Register your complaint with the supervisor and ask for the name of the President and Corporate Address. If there is a professional involved, ask to see a copy of their license and copy down the license number and issuing agency. (You are entitled to that information and it should be publicly displayed.)
    Say to the people involved that the behavior you encountered is unacceptable and tell them you want a Plan of Correction indicating how they will resolve this problem to prevent it from happening again.
    If they do not cooperate and remedy the situation, tell them know that you intend to take the matter further. You will see how quickly they “hop to it” and change their attitude and behavior.

  6. Thanks for reminding me how to stand up for myself without turning it into a shouting match! I wish politeness always worked but it doesn’t……not always…..but it is worth a try and it is important not to participate in a shouting match, flinging accusations at each other.

    • I also feel angry at myself if I yell and scream. No, politeness doesn’t always work out and gain respect, but it always is a good place to start. And for me, I need to stay in the place of being polite to be satisfied with my own behavior. Which is all I can do.

  7. I applaud you! I have been in similar situations and know exactly what you mean. It is a challenge to when your emotions are exploding inside to talk to people in a calm manner. Because if you don’t they just write you off as “crazy” and your pov if entirely negated. Then you are ridiculed as well as humiliated.

  8. Standing up for yourself is tough and what’s more, finding your voice in order to be able to do so is even tougher! At least it has been for me. So good job!
    My main concern from your post is that you paid WAY TOO MUCH for your glasses! I had laser surgery, but had super bad eyes for a long time. I don’t have to worry about this stuff anymore, but you should check out this website next time you are in need of spectacles!!!

    • Thanks, Beth. It was hard work, but I’m glad I worked through it. I didn’t go into details in the post, because while price is important, I did not talk about my complicated prescription. It was not an important element to the point of the story. I didn’t mention the kind (or how many lenses (or frames) I got (material, coating, transitions, etc) so it’s really hard for you to judge if I overpaid or not. And I didn’t. There are items I would not order through the mail: dentures, glasses, and shoes. I need to try them on to make sure they work and fit.

  9. Yay you! Having worked in customer service-type positions (waitress, retail, receptionist), I’m very respectful of the hard job they do and I treat them well. BUT, when they get funky w/ me, all bets are off. I try to use the calm, inside voice as not to humiliate them, but am not always successful. I’ve learned if you don’t watch your own back, no one else will.

  10. Good for you Quinn. It is hard to stand up for yourself sometimes, especially when the other party has made you feel insignificant or as if it was your fault somehow. It is also quite difficult to remain calm and be polite about it. No doubt that was easier because some time had lapsed. I like the idea of suggesting solutions and asking what their solution was. Solution is such a better word than problem. 🙂

    • Yes, leaving and getting a grip was a good idea. I can be snarky and it doesn’t get me what I want. When I worked in a corporation, I learned that if I went to my boss with a problem and no solution, he would get to choose the solution. It was easier to go in with a solution I wanted to tackle. It made me feel competent and the person who had the problem got to solve it her way.

  11. please let us know how this turns out. I went to an eye doctor some years back and the ‘glaucoma test’ was putting her finger out to the side and asking if I could see it… hmmm.. after I had told her that my dad went blind from glaucoma and I had had to have laser surgery to correct a narrow angle condition…. So I left them… never went back..

  12. I have two pairs of galsses in my cupboard from two separate visits to eye doctors (an optometrist and an ophthalmologist) and I am still wearing the glasses from twenty years ago. The optometrist was extremely rude and refused to do anything and I just gave up on the second pair because i felt like it was my fault and I was just making a fuss. It would have been nice to have your courage and be wearing my new glasses. Now it is time to go to the ophthalmologist again and I am procratinating because I don’t want a third pair of glasses in my cupboard. My ophthalmologist was very patient as were the people where I got my glasses made so it is entirely my own reponsibility. I admire your firmness in dealing with this.

    • It was hard not to be disappointed, then angry. But I learned a long time ago that no one else is a mind-reader and you have to ask for what you want. Sometimes several times. But, I, too, suffer from wanting to please everyone around me. For me, that’s the road to passive aggressive perdition. So I’ve lived in that cupboard with your glasses, too.

  13. wonderful the way you worked with the people there! such a joy to read your posts. and i find it fascinating how some go to work as a job and how others go to work as a career.
    a side note…i just had my eyes examined by dr. hartzog…one of the “old school” ophthalmologists.
    i love to hear him talk about the field. last year, i had a macral tear that healed itself. both he and the retinal specialist were amazed. they said that happens 1 in 20 times. my eyes are healthy and sound. the doc went on to talk about lasix surgery and how it changes the anterior chamber. the problem is now happening that as the earlier patients will be needing cataract surgery, there have been no formulas developed to take care of the changed odd anterior cavities., something they said they would deal with later…

    • New techniques are always interesting and flawed. Artificial hips, knees, contact lenses all started out clunkier than necessary. Eventually, there is a point where form follows function, but it’s usually not the early stages.

  14. How rude they were to you. In a modern society we’re so flabbergasted by the utter thought that someone is treating us with disrespect that we rarely stand up for ourselves at the time it is happening. The experience sitting in our guts like a burning coal. I’m glad you were able to return balance to your experience.

    • I was really angry at the time, but said nothing because I was embarrassed. For me, that doesn’t work well. I left, but after thinking about it, decided I wanted to please them less than I wanted to see well.

  15. Good for you! Ten points and a parrot badge! ( A Finnish saying from a children’s TV-show decades ago where good answers etc. were rewarded with points and, if one was particularly deserving, a parrot badge.)

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