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Kindness Trumps Efficiency

“Slowing down allows you to act in a high-quality way. Kind rather than curt. Polished rather than sloppy. It’s hard to be thoughtful when you’re in a rush.” – James Clear

Online shopping makes the world feel like a village

One of my favorite parts of internet shopping is discovering people and businesses that I never would have been able to support “IRL” (in real life). It’s not just access to unique merchandise that has me hooked. The unexpected personal touches that sometimes stem from these transactions can make shopping feel more personal than wandering the mall.

I love the idea that a small soap shop in the hills of North Carolina might wonder about the lady from Pennsylvania who keeps ordering the soap with grits in it. I love that the stationer in Chicago who welcomed my order so warmly several years ago might be waiting for me to order my calendar insert each November. I love the handwritten thank you notes from artisans on Etsy.

This Christmas I ordered a handmade gift from a small, family-run ranch in California. Their website was beautiful – easy to navigate, lovely photos of their products, and simple purchasing process. And, when the package failed to arrive, it was quite easy to track my order.

True customer service is a connection between two people

All simplicity and ease, however, fell to pieces when I learned the package was delayed in a FedEx shipment center in western PA. Let’s just say that the process of navigating the “lost package process” with FedEx lacked the warmth of the California ranch. Weeks went by as I checked and checked again on my order.

Finally, two weeks after Christmas, when I checked the FedEx site, the status of my package had changed – from “delayed” to “damaged, undeliverable.” I took a deep breath, returned to the ranch’s lovely site, and composed a professional email complete with the date of my purchase, order number, FedEx shipping number, the forlorn updated status of my package, and a request for a refund or replacement. I hit send and checked another task off my list.

Within the hour I received the following kind, personable response:

Hi Amy,
I am so sorry this happened!  We had no idea it had been damaged and sitting in a FedEx facility since Dec 21st!  That is frustrating.  Just issued a reship.  Hoping it will go out today and you should have your item in no time.
Happy New Year.
Senior Sales Representative

I read Julia’s note and remembered all the reasons I choose to shop online with small businesses. I felt grateful that I’d chosen to shop with this ranch. Her note made me feel taken care of and like my order mattered. I also felt a tinge of remorse that I hadn’t taken the time to include a wish for a happy new year or, for that matter, any personal touch at all in my email.

Kindness (kindly) trumps efficiency

As I worked my way through my to do list that day, I’d fallen into the trap of efficiency. I was not writing a note. I was filing a request with a nameless, faceless customer service department. I was careful with my details, double-checked my information, and was polite and professional in my tone.

I didn’t feel like I was in a hurry until I received her reply. As I worked my way down my list, I was going too fast to remember that a fellow human being (a woman named Julia!) would receive and read my email. She would spend a few minutes online mirroring the process I had just completed as she checked on my order, then would compose a cheerful, helpful reply.

Even when the relationship is “virtual,” the connection is real

Contemplative practices teach us that we are all connected, all part of an unimaginably huge whole. In fact, the Sanskrit root of the word “yoga” is yuj, which means to yoke or to connect. Because of our interconnectedness to all beings, our actions impact others in ways that are sometimes surprising. Contemplative practices teach us to be mindful of these ripple effects.

Awareness is a key to any contemplative practice. Awareness of what we are doing, yes. But also, awareness of those who will be impacted. Maintaining this state of awareness requires at least as much emphasis on thoughtfulness as efficiency.

That’s where I got tripped up. While I was focused on the quality of my work, I failed to even imagine the recipient of my note. I am grateful to my new mindfulness teacher, Julia, who I will probably never meet, for the loving reminder that we are connected.

Thank you, Julia, for the renewed certainty that in every act we take (even when online shopping), we have the power to be more than polite. We can be thoughtful and kind. And that matters greatly.

A yoga practice is a great way to add a contemplative dimension to your life. A monthly membership at Yoga With Spirit gives you access to an ever-growing library of recorded yoga classes to support your practice.