When I encounter a rude or grumpy person I don’t know and will likely only have that isolated contact with, I try to remind myself “you never know” what he or she is going through. It’s different when you know someone and have regular interactions, because you can place a moment in the context of many moments and decide if it’s out of the norm or not.
I sometimes have the same response when I encounter a particularly cheerful and helpful person. Again, if I don’t have much experience with him or her, I don’t know if it’s an anomaly or character trait. “You never know” what the person is experiencing or the motivation for his or her interaction and response.
It’s important to treat people with respect and kindness no matter what the situation.
I recently pulled through a drive-through to order my favorite peach tea. With light ice, of course. When the cashier opened the window to confirm my order, I noticed she had a full cup of ice. I politely asked her to pour out some of the ice, but she explained she would lose some of my peach flavoring if she did that. I decided it wasn’t worth pointing out she could add more flavoring. After all, the amount of my ice and peach flavoring was definitely a first-world problem. I smiled and assured her it was fine. She smiled in return and declared she’d fix the problem by giving me an extra glass of tea with no ice and no cost, so I could replenish my tea as the ice melted.
As she worked on my two drinks, I tried to encourage her after noticing a sling on one arm. Working a drive-through window cannot be easy with one hand. We talked about challenges of work and life in general, and I ended up telling her how impressed I always am with this particular restaurant. She graciously thanked me then said she’d be right back, and she brought me two free cookies.
I didn’t know what was going on in her life, and she didn’t know what was going on in mine, but I think we both walked (drove) away a bit encouraged that day. We don’t know what’s going on with many of the people we come in contact with every day, but we can give generous patience and encouragement.
The ripple effects are worth it. Because…you never know.