Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Stepping on People's Feet

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It is the first time Mary is wearing her new spring shoes. She is so excited to walk the streets of New York City in those shiny patent-leather shoes that she has already wiped them twice with a dry cloth to make sure that no dust will diminish their beauty. Finally, she leaves her house and walks to the subway. Right away she notices that people approve of her choice. Men look down at her shoes and smile widely when complimenting her. Women look envious. They would love to have shoes like these, too. Mary tries hard to seem indifferent about getting all this attention.She is now inside the station, and she swipes her bright-yellow metrocard and rushes down the stairs to catch the oncoming train. The moment Mary happily gets in, a clumsy man, who also wants to enter the car before the doors close, pushes her to the left and steps on her right foot. "AWWW!" screams Mary, not so much with pain, but because she is outraged: he stepped on her new precious shoe. The man doesn't bother to apologize and takes a seat. Mary's day is hopeleslly spoiled.

Note that the man didn't notice that Mary's shoes were new, and he has no idea how much he hurt her. It often happens that we offend people not realizing it, thinking that it is a fine thing to do, "not a big deal." We don't always know what meaning other people put into what is a mere nothing for us. But in many times, it  is a big deal, and we should learn how to avoid offending others unintentionally. If you find it difficult, here three easy tips on how to recognize that you did something wrong and correct it:

1. A person yells at you, says something rude or looks at you dryly. It may be as well that the man or woman is grumpy and wants to spread his/her bad mood to others. In both cases, you should ask, "What's the matter?" with the most charming smile you can get out of yourself. If you did something wrong, they will immediately tell you what it was, and if they are in a bad mood, let them feel bad for letting it out on you, such a nice and polite individual.

2. You are directly told that you offended someone. If a person tells you straight to your face that you behaved like an asshole, you should admit that you were wrong (if you agree you were), or explain that your actions didn't mean any harm and you didn't realize that he/she would take offense. In either situation, apologize and try to end the conversation on a friendly note.

3. A person doesn't speak to you at all. Start a conversation yourself. Then you will get one of the reactions mentioned above, and then you will know what to do next.

And remember that if you don't talk, you will never find out what you are not doing right. Communication resolves complications, so you should always speak out your concerns if you have any. On the contrary, if someone offended you, consider that their actions may have been inadvertent as well, and forgive them, as to err is human, and humans we all are.


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