When it comes to the people whose livelihood is centered on calling you on behalf of your student loan oppressor in order to remind you for the billionth time that you owe your lender some money, I really, really try to be sympathetic to their plight. After all, they are merely doing their jobs and it’s not their fault that we them money. However, like any other human interaction, their methodology matters. You get what you receive.

For example, whenever I actually do bother to pick up the phone and speak with a representative from my student loan lender, I allow them to speak, but then I politely cut to the chase. In my case, I have private student loans, which means I have very little options in the way of deferment, forbearance, and so on. It’s basically that Rihanna single — you know the one. Yeah, that one. They want their money, and if I ain’t got it, they’re not going to get it.

To that point, I have my speech down:

Yes, this is he, and no, I’m not able to make a payment today. Insert reason why here. I will try to make an additional payment by insert date here, but as you know, the company does not allow much in the way of options because these loans are private and I am doing the best I can.

You may also have to remind them that you have to like eat, pay rent, and eat again so it’s impossible to just slide them your entire paycheck.

If you’re dealing with someone who is capable of empathy, they’ll say they understand but inform you that the calls will continue. Sometimes, a really kind soul will tell you that they will pause the calls for a week. This, of course, is after you make clear that whatever ill feelings you have towards your student loan lender, it’s not aimed at them directly. Some may even fess up to having their own student loan struggles.

Believe it or not, sometimes kindness begets kindness. I like to think simply being decent for decency’s sake is enough, but yes, it can help even in situations such as these with the right people. Warning, though: you don’t have to like spend all day on the phone with them. This isn’t a bonding exercise; this is you grappling with sizable debt that feels like you’re in bondage. So, if they get too chatty, kindly escort that person off of your phone lines and go back to whatever you were doing that didn’t involve having to face the consequences of towering debt.

Now, when you don’t answer, some folks try to get testy and leave you nasty voicemails. This has happened to me more times than I would like. Hell, some will even lie on you and say things like, “This is the last time I’m going to try and work with you.” Uh, I’ve never talked to you in my life, you stranger. Shut up.

Most people don’t even bother checking voicemail anymore, but I’m the type of person who will listen to a voicemail, and if it’s a testy one like that, oh, I’m calling back. And when I do call back, I ask to speak to a supervisor.

Yes, I do that old people’s version of Yelp in which I actually call to ask to speak to a manager and let them know that they need to go back and check their underlings. You see, they record all of those conversations, and no matter how down you feel about your debt, they have no right to speak to you in that manner. I repeat: THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO TALK TO YOU ALL CRAZY.

In the case of actually picking up the phone and dealing with an irritable student loan lender rep with a terrible attitude, this can go in many ways. More often than not, just hang up on them. And if you’re actually trying to give them some money or make some type of arrangements, call back and ask to speak to another representative. Again, you don’t deserve it.

Having said that, while I try to live my life by the Mariah Carey lyric “Ain’t gon’ feed ya, I’mma let ya starve” when dealing with garbage human beings, sometimes, you’ve got to make time. Do I advocate cursing out people over the phone? No. But again, punks jump up to get beat down. But again, this is a very last resort to rude people; don’t just be cursing at anyone simply doing their job.

By now, a few are reading this and wondering, “Wait, you actually answer the phone?” Yes, that’s adorable, but fret not as I firmly encourage folks to let the block button use them and bypass the harassment as much as humanly possible. Still, they tend to switch up numbers and barrage you all over again, so eventually you do have to deal with them and what they want. These are tips on how to handle the problem at its worst.

As for those of you smart to change your numbers altogether, I envy y’all because an email can only sting so badly.