You hear all the cliches. “Don’t judge somebody until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” “You never know what’s going on in someone’s head,” “Everybody’s got a story that will break your heart.” You better have known that last one is from a song!
I think we all try to live by these ideas. We know we should be nice to everyone, and we know that some people might be going through some difficult stuff. But in day-to-day life, it’s easy to forget. Human’s are judgmental. Some people are really judgmental, and allow it to negatively affect the way they interact with others. Some might make a snap judgment based on a first impression, but not allow that to really affect the way they treat a person.
For example, if you see someone out shopping and they are dressed very sloppily. You might think, “wow that person is a slob.” Your brain won’t immediately think about other possible reasons that the person might be dressed that way without consciously asking yourself to. Maybe they just lost most of their clothes in a house fire. Maybe they are a sleep-deprived new parent who just threw on clothes for the sake of being covered so they could make a quick run to the store. The possibilities are endless, but we just go to, “That person is a slob.”
Everybody’s got a story that could break your heart.Amanda Marshall
I am going to tell you about the time I learned this lesson for real. It was about 8 years ago, I was working at a clothing store in my hometown. I sold dressier clothing and shoes/accessories.
One day I was there as the only salesperson while someone from head office was around doing some rearranging in the store. A woman walked in and I did my usual simple greeting. I say hello with a smile. I’ve never been a fan of jumping on customers the moment they walk in or being a salesy person. I’m not good at it and found a less invasive approach worked better anyway. Well, when I said hello to this woman, she looked at me with a serious “resting bitch face” and then looked away in the direction she was walking.
I initially just thought “Ugh, another person not acknowledging me.” It happened a fair bit. People seem to think that if you say hello back to a salesperson, they’re going to get you! So a bonus lesson I want to teach you today is to be friendly with salespeople and say hello back. They are human beings with feelings!
Anyway, she was looking at the shoes, after a few minutes I went to check on her in case she needed to try on a size. I asked if she was finding everything ok and if she wanted to try on any of the shoes. She didn’t look at me, and just said “No.” So I told her to feel free to let me know if she ends up needing anything.
After this interaction, I had internally come to the conclusion that this woman was a bitch. I was still going to treat her with respect and kindness because that’s how I want to be. So while my opinion of her wasn’t going to affect her in any way, it was still an unfair opinion for me to have of her after a short interaction. Little did I know that had I met her about a week or two earlier, I might have been thinking she was a lovely wonderful person.
She left the store shortly after I spoke to her, and returned about half an hour later, and went right back to the shoes. She must have checked out a few other stores in the mall for shoes and decided she liked one at our store best.
“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on.”Anonymous
This time when she walked in, I said hello again, and she gave me a quick “hi” with the “resting bitch face” from before. I went back to her quickly, assuming she probably came back for a specific shoe this time. I was right, she asked to try on a specific shoe in her size. Still speaking with a bit of a “tone” and not sounding friendly at all.
When I brought her the shoes, I thought maybe I’ll try and start a conversation with her. Mainly because someone from head office was there and they want us engaging with everyone, and they were already getting on my case for not trying to suggest add-ons. (This is where I believe people from head office have lost touch with how to work at store level. You have to read body language, this was not someone who was going to appreciate someone suggesting extra items.)
So I asked her if she was buying the shoes for something special. Sometimes this can start a friendly conversation about an upcoming event, although I wasn’t expecting much in this case. Then she told me she was buying the shoes for her fiance’s funeral.
I was NOT expecting that. I’ve helped many people with funeral outfits before, and it’s definitely a more quiet experience than people I am helping for weddings, birthdays, or holiday parties. But her fiance? I couldn’t imagine how she must be feeling at that moment. No wonder she seemed to be in a horrible mood when she came in, no wonder she came off bitchy. She was out buying shoes for an outfit she never imagined having to wear.
She was beginning a new life with this person. She didn’t just lose a person, but a future she had been dreaming of. The beautiful wedding she was planning, the future children they might have had, the house they would have bought together. No one would guess that had just happened to her, but it did, and I thought of her as bitchy because of it. I would have gone home after my shift and told people about my day, including this bitchy person if she hadn’t told me about her fiance. I felt horrible for thinking this about her.
I think about this woman often, and remind myself of this story sometimes when I find myself judging someone. I often wonder about her, if she met someone else and eventually got married, or if she stayed single after that experience. Either way, I really hope she was able to have the happy life she dreamed of, whatever that may be. But she will never know the impact she had on a stranger from a clothing store.