It had been a long day. I had taken my youngest daughter to the city zoo and we were exhausted. I had worn a comfortable outfit and shoes to walk around all day and I am sure my hair was flat from all the heat and humidity. I knew I wasn’t ready for any magazine cover or anything!
I had been looking for a specific piece of furniture and could not find it at home. So we decided to stop at the Crate and Barrel store to look for it. We looked around downstairs for a few moments and then headed upstairs to the furniture area. As our escalator reached the top, there was a salesman standing there. I will never forget his reaction. He very deliberately looked us over from head to toe, decided we didn’t have money, and walked away. I could almost see the wheels turning inside his head.
I wanted to run over and get in his face and let him know that I did have money to spend and who did he think he was, anyway? But, of course, I restrained myself with a few evil glances towards him. Yes, I know that wasn’t the best reaction, either!
Now, I am under no illusion that I am the classiest person around. But to be “told” that by the salesman’s reaction to me was…if I am honest…a bit hurtful. He had glanced at me, judged me, and then condescendingly written me off.
As I left the store, I wondered if I have ever made anyone feel like that? Condescension can take many forms. Before that trip to the store, I had always thought of it in terms of spoken words. After that trip, I realized that condescension can be expressed without ever speaking a word. And judgment can be made without ever knowing any facts, whatsoever.
We have all heard the quote: “don’t judge a book by its cover” and we will flippantly quote it. But we do judge others on outward appearance. And, yet, so often our condescension is unwarranted…because it could very well be that the person I am so callously judging is smarter than me, richer than me, more talented than me.
That salesman made an incorrect judgment that may have cost him a sale. I was really hoping to find the piece of furniture I wanted and deliberately go to a different salesman. I was actually hoping to find several thousands of dollars worth of furniture just to show him! But, alas, I didn’t need several thousand dollars’ worth of furniture nor did I even find the small piece of furniture I came for in the first place. So, we left with a few sundry items and I chalked it up to life experience.
But my conclusion was this: What can you ever lose by being friendly? Nothing. What can you lose by being condescending? A potential friendship, business connection, or, as in this case, a sale.