September 5, 2016

What I learned about anger and positivity from a 20 minute phone call with a Rio prisoner

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Story time ? ? * I spoke with a man in a Rio jail cell for 20 minutes*

Monday 10AM ?, I had just started working on my laptop sitting at my balcony when suddenly I get a call ? (I was expecting an accountant ? to call me today, between 12-2PM but I thought: “Well, maybe she calls earlier” so I picked up the phone.)

A comforting voice, you know, those men with calm, deep, soothing voices like a real radio voice, on the other end of the line tells me he is Leonardo Sampaio, director of Vivo Promotions calling me about a prize ? I won out of like 300.000 contestants in Sao Paulo because my phone chip was from VIVO (phone operator here in Brasil)

*⁉️ I immediately frowned, first on the fact that I would have won a prize without knowing I entered in any competition but mostly because I recently switched from phone operator from VIVO to OI, but I kept the same number. So I found it very strange that a company like VIVO would not have catched that and is still giving me a prize like I am a client of theirs.*⁉️

He tries to pronounce my name (Joooaa—hannn-ss?) to see if he’s actually calling with the right person.
I say: “Yes, that’s me.”

I had won a R$30.000,- money ? prize + Fiat Uno ? (or R$ 47.000 value).

Since I have only been in Brazil ?? for 9 months I get by perfectly in day to day life but phone conversations (especially when the connection is bad) can be harder to understand for me.
So we have some misunderstandings and I ask the man to speak slowly and sometimes spell some things out for me.

He wanted me to write down ? his name and an address and then I had to go to the bank where I would extract a receipt of my account ? (to verify that it was my account indeed).

“Don’t worry, you see, it is safe as I am not asking you for anything personal. No passwords, no passport number, no social security number, nothing. This is real I don’t want you to feel bad”.

⁉️ More suspicion added, because you wouldn’t explain yourself so much if you were actually for real.⁉️

Meanwhile, our call lost connection about 2 or 3 times and he kept calling me back. That’s quite nice. That’s something you would expect from a company like Vivo so there was still a lot of suspicion but there were some minor points that seemed like he had resources and energy to actually get this call done ?? (+1 for effort)

I wanted to see where this was going and I also wanted R$30.000 + R$47.000 so mixing those two things together, I stayed on the line with skepticism.

Now I had to go to the bank where I have an account ? and stay on the line with him ?. I should’nt tell anyone on the street, not even the people at the bank because it would be safer (because if anyone knows you’ll have a lot of money they might steal it). ?

By this time, I was walking down the road (to the bank) but really I was meeting Taise because she was nextdoor buying fruits ? ? and I needed her because I wanted to explain the story of the guy to make sure I was understanding everything correctly and I wanted to be sure that he was scamming me so I could come up with the proper response.
(So all this time walking out of the apt I stayed on the line ? – but I muted my microphone ? so he couldn’t hear anything)

We lost connection again while I arrived at the fruit market and told Taise the story.

At that time, I had already done research on every word he told me (calling from Vivo and Globo, offering a prize of 30.000 reais and a car, his name, the address he mentioned) and combining Google searches on my laptop and phone I found the last clue while Googling on my phone outside the fruit market and I knew with 100% certainty that this was a fraud. ?

I had to know for sure.

He called me back after 20 seconds.

This was interesting because I had just realized with 100% certainty that he was scamming me.
So I knew, when I picked up the phone, that that friendly and calm voice, was actually scamming me and wanting to take my money ??

And yet, when that person started talking, I felt a connection with him. I had just figured out he was 100% scamming me, felt that anger for a while ?. But just talking to someone already makes you react less crazy or angry to someone (at least for me, that’s why I am the best when I am behind my computer and chatting or emailing, lol. #SocialAnxiety (hey check out #shamelessplug) Because you don’t feel that human connection ?that makes it more difficult to say or ask what you came for or take something from another person. (When you feel connected to someone you’re like: “Oooh but he’s just like me, we’re all the same it’s fine we’ll just be fine and everyone is happy”)

Anyway, In that short amount of time that I had figured out he was trying to scam me and rob my money I also decided that I wouldn’t just yell? at him or tell him how stupid and bad ?? he was. I wanted to get to him, at least a little bit, like he got to me… But then bring at least a sparkle of positivity/hope ?

Reacting with anger and super agitated will just make him turn off the phone and try the next victim ⏩

So he called me back and I pick up and he says: “Joao-hanns? Yeah the line dropped again, sorry I’m a little out of the region” ?

I already got caught by that because now I didnt get to say what I had in mind immediately so I responded “Oh yeah.. that happens huh.. Must be the quality of VIVO, right? (Thinking I was being funny as he said he was from VIVO, so their network disconnecting all the time would be kind of ironic)??

I followed up with: “Is it hard, doing this work? I can imagine it must be hard for you?” ?

— * a brief pause on the other end of the line * —
“Yes, sir… I .. eh… what? What do you mean, I don’t understand?” ?

I say: “Yeah, I can imagine it must be hard for you doing this all day, to be sitting in a room with the phone to your ear, trying to get me to do what you want so you can get steal that money from people. How is that for you?” ?

—* Another brief moment of silence*— (I like to imagine that he this is where I might have made a little bit of a human connection and took a part of his mask away by touching on the fact that it must be difficult for him to do this. Because really, no-one does this for fun. You can be doing this for weeks, or years and you can have disconnected ? your feelings and heart completely from your life because you need to get that money on the table but still…. deep down.. NO ONE does this for fun. )

“Yes sir, I ehh… It is hard… This is the only option I have left sir… I….. ? Sir, listen… I am very sorry to have done this to you, this is my only way to make some money and get food for my family.. I have been in prison for 13 years now…?
Obviously you are intelligent and educated… Actually sir, can I just tell you something… just… That I want to say it is a pleasure to speak with a foreigner… a Dutch ?? guy, you know I have never had the opportunity to speak with a foreigner like this so… I want to thank you for that”

I said: “Hey, listen man. I know it’s hard. It must be hard. I am not judging..
Listen man, I wish you every good thing, I send you hope and positivity (like it’s just what I do in my head guys, it’s not like I send packages to anyone it’s just what I say when I think about someone, and truly wish GOOD for someone – which.. I try to reach that place thinking about ANYone for that matter) and I am sure that you will encounter a way out of this.

I truly believe that that exists, for you.”

Then he mumbled something I couldn’t make sense off..
After a couple of seconds he started off on what seemed like a kind of mantra ??? where he mixed a lot of “God-willings” and “injustice” , “system” and “13 years in jail” into his words.

He rambled on and on and I couldn’t get a word in anymore ???⁉️

Who knows what made him do that…

Might be an unconscious defense mechanism from him to block out any pain or realness of what we just talked about…

I can’t tell.

I tried interrupting but he was just talking and talking ??? and I couldn’t even understand anymore⁉️ , so I had to talk over him ✋? ? and state clearly that I wished him all the best and I believed in good things for him ?, no matter what and that I had to disconnect the call now.?❌

So I did.


Made me reach the following conclusion:

⚓️Reacting from kindness and empathy never worsens the situation. Not for me, nor for him. Actually, even if I am selfish and only care for myself, reacting from kindness is still better than getting angry and calling someone out.⚓️

Here’s why:?

I could have reacted “typically” with anger and resentment and told him to go f*ck himself ? and that he was a worhtless piece of ? and deserved to be in jail and that I hoped he would rot there..


It’s what happens a lot.. Sometimes you might do it instinctively.
But what would that result? in?

For me ??, primarily?
—> Anger.?? Lots of agitation. Super negative energy. I would be shaking, I know how I get when I feel injustice, my hands and fingers start shaking while I talk, my throat gets tight… That’s what I would get if I went the angry way.

I count that as a score of -1 ?

What he ? would get? Who knows right? I can’t talk for another person and how he perceives and reacts to things but I can make an assumption:
—> Either he shrugs my nasty reaction off and moves on with no effect whatsoever ??
That is a score of 0 ?
—> Or my words do have effect on him and he lets it play in his head and reinforces his beliefs that he is a worthless piece of shit (That’s why I’m in jail).. reinforces the belief that he has no other choice, he is a bad person and won’t ever make it in the real world so he’s bound to be a criminal” ???
That would be a score of -1 ?

Either way, reacting with anger and negativity results AT LEAST in me being agitated and feeling bad. And there’s a chance it has a negative effect on the other person as well. So the score is either -1 or -2 ⛔️?

That’s pretty bad.

Reacting from a place of kindness resulted in:
For me ??:
Calmness, a peace of mind, positivity and a charge of energy? extra that I was able to give away through my words on the phone.
Yay, that’s definitely +1 for me ?

For him ?:
Again, can’t say how he perceives things. But I can assume: it does nothing and he just moves on ??
That would score 0 ?
Or, after having been told he’s worthless and being in jail for 13 years he heard a complete stranger, even foreign to him, tell him he deserves good things and that he believes that good things are also in store for him ?. That might give him a glimpse or a sparkle of hope. Or at least him being intrigued by the experience of this call.
I would count that as +1 ?

So in this scenario, the result would be either +1 or +2‼️

Am I saying kindness and empathy is ALWAYS the way to go in life?

Now, I don’t want to go all lifecoach and woo-woo on you (Or do I? :)). Because you can do this exercise completly NOT caring about the other person but kindness is still how YOU will win. Because with kindness I always score +1… From anger I always score -1. And I don’t even control the effect it has on the other person, he might just shrugg it off. So he would be equal at 0 and I would be at -1? Are you crazy ⁉️ That doesn’t make sense ⛔️ Ever. At least not for me,as a data driven dude ?? (heyyyy I do data driven digital marketing if you care to have a look at #anothershamelessplug #hekeepsongoing #choochoo)

So, really I just wanted to plug my marketing services.

This whole story was made up.




NO, I’m just kidding.

Maybe you already felt a little bit of anger that you feel when you are betrayed.

Good, that’s what I’m talking about in this article.

But I can definitely state:

***** Reacting to a situation from kindness and empathy for me ALWAYS results in a win. Reacting from anger for me will ALWAYS put me back in score.*****

Maybe observe this for yourself and see what you’d choose 🙂 Requires quite some effort though, to not let your emotions and “intuition” overcome you at moments where you feel someone betrayed you but hey, nothing good ever came easy ? ?? ?

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