A Day in the Life of a Hal (Part III)
Ok..I’m no Jason Bourne and I readily admit that the image depicted here may be a stretch, but sometimes it feels like this when a customer is reaching out for a solution and literally has nowhere else to turn!
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the latest installment while I outline how Hal helped yet another customer:
As I’ve shared in previous articles before, I'm a bit of a night owl so the later hours usually bring interesting requests of all kinds to the Hal platform. This evening was no exception.
I suddenly got notified of a customer who was making a request on the Hal app around 1:30 AM. I jumped on the request immediately to ensure that the customer knew someone was there to help them. (Long wait times may be off-putting and/or can result in the customer dropping off the app completely, so timeliness is a very big deal in our Hal community) When I texted my usual “How can I help you?,” the text that came back was, “I can't sleep, because my boyfriend called me a name & broke up with me…and now the whole school calls me by that name. I literally cried all day.”
At first I thought maybe this was a teenager who had been bullied, but I had to confirm an age requirement to ensure I was talking to someone that the Hal platform considered to be a user of legal age. Since Hal does have a requirement for people above the age of 13 as valid users, I felt compelled to at least ask the person's age. The reply came back, “I’m 22 years old.”
In that moment, I had a stark realization: I was talking to someone who had been wounded verbally as an adult and perhaps had gone through this kind of treatment their entire life. The combination of what may be years of bullying has now manifested in a sleepless night and a broken heart. I knew this was not a typical request, but now that we were inextricably linked over the Hal app, I needed to provide the right kind of assistance. What started out as a perception of simply a teen having her first encounter with cruel kids turned into a completely different scenario in an instant.
I will confess that I did research the best way to listen and comfort someone who is in the kind of distress in order to ensure that I didn't say anything dismissive or unhelpful. When someone is in real emotional distress, they don't want a lecture. They may not even want answers. They may simply want to share the experience and if they solicit a need for solutions, then perhaps they would be willing to receive some feedback. Treading cautiously and being a good listener was going to be extremely important in this case.
The interesting thing for me was this is a complete paradigm shift from what Hal usually renders for customers. We are usually the people who research, curate, explore, explain, delve deep and simplify the complex and relay information to people who have questions. However this type of Hal request was one that required a completely different orientation. I admit that I had to truly pivot in order to ensure that I served the needs of someone who was hurting. You can’t Google empathy.
This person laid out via text much of what I had presumed: that they have been bullied or teased most of their life based on their name and some other aspects of their physical characteristics; and they shared a painful road from high school and now into college — all of which was riddled with a history of hurtful name calling that stuck. I listened intently and simply used gentle, affirming words to ensure they knew they were being heard. Since we could only communicate over text, there were moments when even that proved to be a bit of a challenge, but based on the ongoing replies from the customer, I knew that my texted attempts at good listening skills were being warmly received.
It wasn’t until 38 minutes later that the request came in the form of a question: “What should I do to feel better about all of this?”
Since I am no armchair therapist, I wanted to ensure that I was moving slowly and correctly in the direction that would meet the need. I asked if she wanted me to look into things that could boost self-esteem or help her feel better about herself as a first step. I then asked if she wanted me to look into therapists in her area that she may want to consider reaching to as well. At that point, she agreed. Suddenly my research skills were being applied and I was able to provide a few informational dividends to another hurting human being to bring them a little closer to wholeness.
I found a couple of terrific articles that gave some very “easy to implement steps” at gaining more self-esteem and also re-frame name-calling by other adults into a better perspective, along with a few accredited LMH (Licensed Mental Health) professionals. The customer literally said that she did not recall anyone providing her tools like those to dig out from this emotional pit. Since I don't know the scope of her full situation by any stretch, I'm unclear if she presumed she didn’t have the resources for therapy or that other solutions even existed, (or perhaps she was just so wounded & exasperated that she didn't have the desire nor the energy to search them herself), but I found myself very honored that she would decide to trust a stranger at 1:30 in the morning with a very vulnerable issue that had plagued her for well over a decade.
As the popular saying goes, “Be kind to everyone because you don't know what they're going through”. That phrase was never more poignant as it was that morning in the wee hours of a Tuesday.
One of the great things about working with this team is recognizing that Hal is so very versatile as compared to other personal assistant apps. Although none of us are qualified psychologists, we do have an FAQ if someone shared concerning phrases or trigger words that indicated they may be suicidal so we can redirect them to the right resources such as the Suicide Hotline. However, at times like the one I have just described, it's simply about a listening ear and an empathetic person who's available — when someone needs it most — which can be all that is required.
As you may have concluded by now, yet another takeaway about the unique value that Hal brings is that it actually connects humans with other humans. Although I am a professed technophile and love how technology continues to make our lives easier and better, there are certainly things that still require the human touch. Relating to hurting people and meeting them where they are is something that AI is light years away from. Fortunately, Hal has that covered.