You may not know this, but we are all pretty clueless. The only way to avoid this is to be nonverbal. Never speak and you’ll be fine.
Pay attention as others speak to strangers and you’ll quickly understand what I’m suggesting. The conversations spiral downward with the passage of time as they fill space to “be polite”. At some point a disjointed phrase will be uttered. If we would only quit while we’re ahead or better yet, never get started at all.
I was at the return counter at Lowe’s a few weeks ago when the cashier called a manager for help with a customer. No issues or friction between the two ladies just a simple override or something. Within minutes an older gal in an electric wheelchair motored over. She unhooked a banana colored plastic chain and wheeled through. Then came a quick 180 degree spin and a hook of the chain back at home. Some managerial master keystrokes were entered which allowed the return to move along.
Once things were back in shape, the manager reversed her previous course. Spinning, almost dancing, with the chain and latch. It was a thing of pure beauty.
The customer, observing the amazing pirouette, said “I’m impressed. I don’t think even I could do that.”
“I’ve been doing this awhile” came a sarcastic reply from the manager.
Right then it hit me. I did all I can to choke back a laugh. Wait. Was that a compliment? Of course you couldn’t do that. Really? Was she saying she couldn’t do that right now or after a lifetime in a wheelchair? Without the circumstances added to the statement it sounded like she didn’t think she could do that right now. I wanted to say, “Come on, give it a whirl. How do you know if you don’t try?”
To be fair, she didn’t mean any harm by it and remains clueless to this day of what she said. She meant it as a compliment. Nice try. Sort of like “You look nice today” or “Have you lost some weight?” Meant to be kind, but could be mistaken as “You look a heck of a lot better than you normally do” and “You’re fat, but I want to encourage you to keep trying.”
Maybe just a simple Thank You would have been a little better received?
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace