Scene: you are out and you meet an acquaintance, someone you see infrequently. This person smiles, looks wide-eyed at you and says: you’ve gained weight or you’ve lost weight or what did you do with your hair or my God are you addicted to tanning or I heard you lost your job, what’s that about!
A friend of mine refers to these loose-lipped contacts as the Grocery Store People—they rarely see you and yet when they do they can plunge a dagger into you with thoughtless, insensitive and ungenerous comments.
My friend has an adopted daughter from China and one morning when the two were shopping, she met a Grocery Store Person who blurted out: Where did she come from? Stunned, my friend quieted herself and replied: We just came from home. Thought we’d do a little shopping. Of course, that was the best answer.
But how do you deal with these onslaughts that occur when you are trying to remember if you already have a few boxes of spaghetti in the pantry?
- Avoid a defense. It’s best to use a light touch because you really don’t want to engage this person and a curt reply could keep you there. Respond politely like my friend did and walk away; get on with your day.
- Use your smarts to wake up the offender. There are occasions when the remark cuts too deeply and you must reply. A friend with a chronic lung condition was accosted with: I heard about your lung disease. What were you thinking? You had to know what smoking would do. You could look the person in the eye and answer: Don’t you realize what you just said really hurts? You might even tear up. This person put you on the spot and now you have knocked the ball back into his court—you did it for your self-esteem and protection. Sweet revenge.
- Make it a teachable moment. A friend going through chemo was accosted in the store with: I won’t hug you because you probably have one of those ports. Two things happened there: distance was created when a physical hug would have been welcomed and ignorance was displayed. My friend stood her ground and explained that having easy access for chemo with a port or portacath does not change your ability to be physically close to people.
- Try using humor. Bringing laughter into an uncomfortable situation is always a good choice. It defuses tension and makes it easier for you to disengage and get away from this person. I heard you gave your house away when you sold it! Reply: Really. Well I gave away my lawn mower and all my snow shovels too. I’m off to sunny Arizona.
- Go to forgiveness. Last but certainly not least, try to forgive. Grocery Store People with loose lips that open and hurt, will walk away scanning their lists and forget all about you. You, on the other hand, still feel their sting. It’s best to forgive them on the spot, to let go of the hurt, to chalk it up to ignorance on their part. You can’t change it—but it will change you if you let it eat at you. Don’t! Smile at the next person you meet and say Good Morning.
You can be a vessel of good will wherever you are and those insensitive comments will fade from your memory.
Thanks to Google Images