How to handle unfriendly debt collectors

In these testing financial times many are struggling to keep what they've got, and others are pushing to get what they can. The latter is the realm and activity of the debt collector. The newly released book "How to Hug a Porcupine" offers guidelines for dealing with difficult people. With money becoming a major point of contention for many people these days, such skills are an important commodity. While debt collectors are most often thought of as a type of porcupine, a recent article in The New York Times described the successful outcomes for debt collectors who traded their quills for kindness. When the debt collectors were not prickly or forceful in their attempts to have relatives pay the money owed by their deceased relatives-but were instead sympathetic-some of the survivors not only gladly paid up but also wrote appreciative notes to the collectors. They felt cared about, and not put upon. But what if you're in debt and not lucky enough to encounter the understanding collectors mentioned in the article? What if a debt collector is pressuring you in a porcupine-like and less-than-caring way to give up money you don't have? Keep a cool head. If you react in the porcupine manner of defense and attack, it is unlikely to benefit you and may make the situation worse. Your words may bring out more of the aggressive porcupine side of the collector, which will make him or her less understanding of your difficulties. As a result this porcupine will be less flexible with debt demands. He or she will then be less willing to look for a solution that is workable and beneficial for both sides. Maintain perspective. Remember what the revolutionary and pioneering psychologist, Albert Ellis PhD, used to say: "As bad as it is, it could always be worse. If you owe $10,000, be glad it's not $200,000 that you owe. And be grateful for what is still good in your life." Recognize that on the other end is a person, too. Whilst it is quite rational to dislike having money collected from you if it is scarce, it is irrational, unhealthy and unhelpful to be spiteful to the collector. Recognize that he or she is a fallible human, just as you are, who is performing an occupational duty (albeit in an undesirable manner!). Face the facts. Do you owe that money? What's the reality? If you do owe money, and your money is scarce, you'll have a better chance of finding a way to pay it off in small installments. The collector may approve of this payment plan if you communicate in a respectful and non-abrasive fashion. Find balance. Make choices that maximize your chances to get more of what you do want and less of what you don't want. Life does contain difficulties, but by thinking and acting in sane and wise ways, we will minimize any suffering and increase inner and outer harmony. Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis wrote the foreword of "How to Hug a Porcupine" and is a licensed psychologist in Australia and mental health counselor in New York.********** Published: March 27, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 49