Zen and the Art of Insurance Policy Renewal

If everything in life is intended to teach a lesson, I am in search of what I have learned from a recent series of interactions with an insurance broker who declined to provide professional customer service. Why did I continue to deal with this person? I thought continuity would be easier than starting fresh with someone new. My justification reeks of laziness, but also of optimism—someone can’t really be that bad at their job or care so little about their clients, right?

In the amount of time that I spent calling, emailing, negotiating, and leaving friendly (and not-so-friendly) reminders, I could have easily changed brokers and policies several times. So why didn’t I? A fairly benign, yet unproductive, handful of exchanges centred on a few details, escalated into a drawn-out quest to correct a solitary error. I let my ego take the lead in a personal crusade to demand the level of service I deemed just. Spoiler alert—it didn’t work.

I am the kind of person who hates loose ends and thrives on striking items off my to-do list. This experience challenged me. The broker made it clear that I was unworthy of their time and respect, but that wasn’t what bothered me most. I was frustrated that I could not achieve closure and that I was unable to tick a box once the task was complete. I learned that I have a strong attachment to ticking boxes.

It occurred to me that I could vomit my complaints and frustrations all over my social media accounts in an act of revenge, but I tend to steer clear of this sort of public humiliation. Don’t get me wrong, if someone asks for a recommendation, I will send them far in the opposite direction. But I will do it through conversation and I will communicate my reasons with compassion. I do value justice and integrity, but I also trust that people will notice when the scales are not balanced and use their consumer power accordingly.

In his book No Mud, No Lotus, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh discusses the Buddhist teaching called The Arrow.

The unwelcome things that sometimes happen in life—being rejected, losing a valuable object, failing a test, getting injured in an accident—are analogous to the first arrow. They cause some pain. The second arrow, fired by our own selves, is our reaction, our storyline, and our anxiety. All these things magnify the suffering. Many times, the ultimate disaster we’re ruminating upon hasn’t even happened.1

I was honest with the broker—I told them I was unhappy and frustrated with the way I was being treated. That is enough. What they chose to do with the information is up to them. Maybe they will improve their customer relations. Maybe they won’t. Perhaps they are oblivious to how much distress I felt during and after our interactions. Maybe they don’t care. Stretched over three long months, I have shot myself with the second, third, fourth arrow, and so on. Yesterday I tried to reach out for the last time. I don’t expect a response, but I have done all that I can and now I am going to let it rest. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that it’s never too late to lower my bow and give myself the gift of peace.

1. Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: the Art of Transforming Suffering (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2014), 46.

© SF Jones, 2016