You get it.

I used to work in a popular coffee joint around town…the name of which will remain anonymous, but it was a fun place. There were always people coming and going, a lot of activity, good coffee, terrible hours. I wasn’t a bad barista either. I loved chatting with customers, I sling a mean cup of joe, and the hectic atmosphere of the place didn’t stress me out. Much.

Before I began work, I went in to sign papers and check out my schedule. On that particular day, I wore ridiculous shoes, flats with a slick sole, and walked behind the wet coffee counter and slipped flat on my bum. It was a pretty dramatic fall, arms flapping, butt hitting the floor with a hard thump, complete with a bruised ego. I’m actually cringing right now writing about it. I clammed up and was embarrassed, and I didn’t talk much until I left. From then on, my boss referred to me as “shy.”

When our mornings would get busy, he would say things to me like, “I know you’re shy, but don’t be so nervous of the customers,” and “This is a hard job for someone who’s really shy.” Huh? Granted, I’m not the world’s most gregarious girl, but I’ve never been called shy, unless it was around a boy in high school. There’s nothing at all wrong with being shy, but that’s just not me. I can chat up a stranger and feel fine about it, and I felt at home in the coffee shop. In fact if you’re familiar with this blog, you’re also familiar with my borderline unhealthy relationship with coffee. But he took that one interaction with me, and decided thats who I was.

So I would reply back to him, “No, I’m not shy. I’m really alright.” Or I would ask, “What makes you say that?” But he would simply continue to refer to me as his shy barista, and not in a cute and endearing way.  For the life of me, no matter how hard I tried; I couldn’t get him to hear what I was saying.

Eventually, I gave up.  Let him call me purple if he wants to, what I was saying wasn’t sinking in.  I didn’t work there for a terribly long time. It may have had more to do with the fact that I got a more applicable job for my grad program, that I was tired of getting up at dawn or missing evenings with Tony, but that lack of being understood and heard sure didn’t do anything to keep me behind the counter.

I heard an interview a few days ago about a guy who taught Charades Classes. He also fancied himself the best guesser in the game. Act out anything and he thought he could guess it. During the interview, he said that he was pretty sure most of his students fell in love with him. This might sound comical, but imagine it! You’re acting out a random scene from a silly movie, and all of a sudden someone yells out, “Annie Hall!” or “Revenge of the Nerds III!” And you think, yes! I can communicate, someone gets me when no one else does, and sure, you feel a little bond to the person who guessed correctly. So sure, I guess I get what he was saying. Which is also a reason I will probably never take a charades class.

So, if there’s a takeaway here, I think it would be this. Stephan Covey says that we need to first ‘seek to understand,’ then be understood. I don’t know about you, but I like people a lot more when I feel like they ‘get’ me. People don’t always get my jokes (and granted, they’re not always funny), but when someone does seem to really hear what I’m saying, it makes you feel good. When you leave time spent with someone, whether it be a dinner, drinks, or coffee, and you feel like they really cared about what you had to say, wanted to understand you, you can’t help but but feel warmly towards them. At least, I can’t help it. I try to really listen to people, but I still sometimes fall into the trap of listening to others autobiographically, filtering what people say through my own experiences instead of simply listening because I want to know them better. So thats my first step. Just listen to listen. I’ll let you know how it goes!