BEING KIND TO DIFFICULT PEOPLE - Don't stand so close to me Grocery shopping in 2020 is like running a marathon. First, you get your list together. You hope and pray that the shelves will reveal such rare items as toilet paper or baking yeast. You get your mask ready and your hand sanitizer, grab your wallet, keys, purse, shoes, and head out of your house. Did you clean those doorknobs? Well, better be safe and use some hand sanitizer. Now, you're in the car. You drive to the grocery store and park in the lot. Should you park right next to another vehicle? What about that cart? Did that guy just sneeze? Cough? Your friend on Facebook swears by the delivery service. Did you just kill yourself and your entire family by coming here? And now, you're inside the grocery store. What were you going to get? Oh, right, you made a list. You take out your list and survey your environment. It's not crowded. Most people are wearing masks. Sighing to yourself, you head deeper inside. After all of that, I think anyone would be anxious. Each step toward the grocery store is another crank on the wheel of anxiety. You're in the vegetable section with what feels like 11 billion other items to get and that guy/gal decides to reach over you to get something. "DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME!" you want to scream -- or maybe you do -- before realizing you're talking to one of "them." Everyone turns to look at you and... Now what? Here's three things to remember and a few to try in this situation. 1. The first thing to remember is that this person is likely more anxious than you are. Sure, it's possible they didn't wear a mask because they are making a statement, but more likely they forgot -- or they don't know how to get a mask. Masks are required everywhere now, but not everyone knows how to get one. 2. Grocery stores are very overstimulating. Often people fall into a kind of trance. This person could have just acted on habit and not been thinking. Trying to get the hell out of there, they reached across you to get something. Yes, this is thoughtless, but my guess is that you've done it too. 3. Remember that rejection is deadly. The last thing you want to do is de-humanize this person. You are a kindness warrior. You want to support this persons humanity while keeping yourself safe. We are all in the same boat here. Yes, but what can I DO? 1. State the facts with as little emotion as possible. "Oh hey, you're kinda close" or "Please, not on the first date" or "Excuse me, was I in your way?" Sure, this person has now threatened your life and s/he deserves your wrath, but what is it going get you? The great battle on Aisle 10? Being kind can make you a new friend or help retrieve someone from their fear turned rage. 2. Move away from this person. It's your job to take care of yourself. It's not the world's job to take care of you. If someone is bugging you, move away from them. If they seem to be hounding you, find an employee and get help. Yes, yes, I get that you shouldn't have to do this, but while you're standing on what should or shouldn't happen, you are not taking care of yourself. This is a time when your need to take care of yourself must supersede your "shoulds." 3. Look the person in the eyes for a moment, and say, "Can I help you find something?" or "Tough times right now" or introduce yourself and ask how the person is doing. Reaching over someone is not normal behavior for our modern society. Clearly, something's going on with this person. One last thought, our kindness goal is simply not to dehumanize or "other" anyone. We are all one human race. All "othering" is about power and control. As kindness warriors, we refuse to "other" anyone. Being kind is hard work that takes tremendous courage and lots of patience. My guess is that you can look back in your life and recognize times when someone was kind to you. These difficult situations provide us a chance to pay that kindness forward. Now it's your turn. What's worked for you? What hasn't? -----
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