Communication GAPs: On Not Being Offended Because You Really Never Know

Guys, GAP is having a great sale right now- 40% off the entire store.  I have been there three times this weekend.

During my visit on Friday, I was squatting at a low shelf searching through stacks of jeans trying to find my trusty dark wash size 14 skinnys when I heard a woman near me say something like, “Do you guys not have these jeans in over a size 10?”

A few seconds passed before I realized that nobody was responding to her.  I took a quick glance around and realized that we were kind of alone in our corner of the store.

“Might she be asking me???,” I thought to myself.  “Do I look like I work here?”  I was wearing a mint green promo T-Shirt, grubby, jeans, sandals, and a ponytail.  I didn’t have a cart of a lanyard or a badge or a radio or, I thought, any of the other items that usually gives one away as an employee of a retail store.  Surely she couldn’t have been talk to me!  But…nobody else was around, so, surely, she was.

I found myself amused at the honest mistake and was interested in finding out what led her to make it, so I look up and i asked,

Do I look like I work here?

Are you seeing why this was problematic?  I was asking her an honest, friendly question about my outfit and what it may or may not have resentful.  But the way she heard it was, “Of course I don’t work here, you dumb broad!”

She responded with something like, “Oh well you just really looked like you knew what you were doing.” (Which, granted, I did.)

I tried making a friendly remark, which was probably also interpreted as annoyed and rude, and she walked away without responding.

This poor woman- she was asking for help, and she got rudely snapped at by some stranger with a bad attitude.

The thing is, this stranger wasn’t snapping, or being rude, and actually had a fine attitude.  It’s just that the words I used (which suited the circumstance perfectly) were also words one might used if they were trying to be cuttingly sarcastic.

I offended her.  No offense was meant.

So next time somebody says something rude, assume they are trying to be sweet and just happened to use words that sounded rude to you.

“What is wrong with you?” could be an honest expression of concern.

“Your outfit isn’t great” could mean that your outfit is flippin’ awesome.

“Get out of my face” could mean that you owe it to yourself to take a nice vacation because you’ve been under a lot of stress lately and you would first need to get out of their face since their face is not on vacation.

And even if they do mean these things the rude way, they will stop meaning it once you act oblivious to their jerkiness.  🙂

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