A friend and I went antique hunting one Saturday to celebrate her birthday. The first store we walked into had some construction going on. In fact, we could hear a buzz saw in the background.
My friend spied a locket in a case. When the owner approached, she asked if she could help. My friend asked to see the locket. The woman said, “I can’t get into that case. Look at this mess. I have no idea where my keys are. Come back in two weeks.” We both shook our heads to the woman’s comments, felt a little disappointed, and said, OK.
As we turned to leave, the woman added in a rather condescending tone, “And you shouldn’t be in here anyway. We’re closed.”
I dutifully marched toward the door. My friend, however, isn’t so easily intimidated and her button had been pushed. She said, “Then you should put up a closed sign.”
The woman’s comeback: “It must have gotten moved.”
As the woman was shutting the door behind us, she must have had second thoughts about what she had said, for she added more gently, “Well, we really don’t have a sign.”
Naturally, my friend and I talked about this woman and her poor business approach.
It would have been so much better if she had said, “I’m sorry, I’ve mislaid the keys in all this construction. In fact, we’re really not open for business. But do look around. And please come back when we’re a little more organized.”
The second antique store had no construction going on. My friend and I peered in all the cases, looking at this and that. Then I approached the young man behind the counter and asked, “Do you have any paperweights?” thinking that I might have missed one. He looked at me and said, “Lady, if you don’t see it, we don’t have it.”
At that point I started giggling and said thanks. As my friend and I walked out of the store I said, “Is there a full moon tonight?”
How much better it would have been for this fellow to have said, “I don’t think we have any paperweights right now. Check back in a few weeks.”
The week before last I wore a leather vest to work. I thought it looked great. When I walked out into the waiting room, one of my more critical clients said, “My, don’t you look fancied up. Ha. Ha. Ha.”
I didn’t respond.
How much better it would have been if this woman had said nothing. Or if she had said, “I like your vest.”
A wife had asked her husband about the Kurds. Several days later he found an article on the topic in a magazine of his. Because he thought it would be of interest to her, he put in on her dresser. His wife’s response when she saw the papers: “Why are you always putting your stuff on my dresser?”
With one thoughtless remark this wife had put her husband down, thrown away his caring deed and made a fool of herself.
Jeannine is moving to Europe. Recently she ran into one of her friends and told her of her adventure. The other woman’s comment: “What would you ever want to do that for?”
Now, tell me, how is someone supposed to respond to that?
I believe most people are well meaning. The trouble is they don’t think before they speak. They don’t listen to what they say. They don’t hear their tone of voice. They don’t think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their comments.
This week, be determined to watch what you say. Be determined to listen to how you say it.
Think with your ears.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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