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@Valeria - Very true. There is definitely an art to it, but you seldom know the medium before it's time to get creative. For that reason, I think you've got to be comfortable playing different angles, different cards, and different strategies. What works for one might not work for another.

"Know your enemy."
"Keep your friend close, but your enemies closer."

These are terribly cliche, but they're true. To Bill's point about how the person on the other end likely doesn't give a sh*t and isn't empowered to do anything but feebly placate, it might be okay to unload on him, but he still holds the power.

He (or she) is the gate keeper. If FLOD (first line of defense) can't help, he must refer you onward and upward. Piss him off and he might just "accidentally" disconnect. Congratulations, you're back to pressing (1) for English. If nothing else, these indifferent, powerless front-liners want nothing more than to clock in and out, and collect a paycheck. Make things easy on them and you're likely to get your way. Cross them, and it's stabby time.

Then again, after dealing with Sallie Mae on the phone, most call center personnel I deal with seem downright brilliant and effective, so I might be biased. :P

@Lauren - I'm seeing more and more evidence of kindergarten-like behavior on Twitter, and that is one of the reason why I'm focusing my attention elsewhere. Of course, what people fail to see is themselves as they behave poorly, not understanding it bounces right back, as you described. Plus, there is the crying wolf effect as well...

@Brian - I have been thinking that it's an art being a closed open. In other words, being receptive and yet exercise restraint in trusting too quickly and too much before a relationship develops. And in many cases, even after the beginning of one as this is the place where you are most likely to be stabbed in the back. I've experienced that in social media and, believe me, it is not a pleasant thing. Being threatened and bullied, even when you expect it, is not fun. Appealing to the sense of empathy and compassion is a good rule of thumb in any situation, including customer support. It's hard when someone ruins your hair and you have to walk around for a week wearing it until they fix it, yet doable ;-)

@Bill - thank you for the correction. Fixed. It was a late night post. I should stop doing those late at night, which may mean I stop blogging altogether ;-) To your second point, it is the lip service that builds over time. I guess I did a worst job that Ariely in articulating his findings and there is probably a correlation between what you say and what he found. It means ignore the trolls, forget the naysayers, focus on building something you can be proud of (at the service of your natural gifts). Let me reread the whole thing... it does follow a paragraph where I talk about people leaving a company to change the game and I do say that it's valid for social media as well.

First, a snark - "or were laid off", not " "or where laid off".

Second, a response. I believe that we don't take it out on the wrong person because we don't distinguish between the two; we do it because we can't get at the truly powerful person, and so we settle for the schmo standing in front of us. (Ever heard the phrase 'mau-mauing the flak catchers? That's exactly what I'm thinking about). We want to vent to someone, and we'd prefer someone who can and will fix our problem. Which is why customer service people are taught to echo your statement of the problem - So I understand that you're not happy that the MedWhz5000 pacemaker seems to be affected by your garage door opener, is that correct, sir? - so that it sounds as if they *understand*, they empathize with us, they'll solve our problem. Whether they will or not is yet to be seen.

Third -- sorry, I don't get what "a way to enrich the space with your own content and personality" means, in practical terms. I'm guessing you *don't* mean "Amaze us with your grasp of scatological invective and your ability to force the veins in your forehead to bulge in interesting patterns'. I suspect you mean something like "Reframe the question, shift the point of argument' - something like that. But I'm not sure.

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