Once upon a time, my mother was flying somewhere – long flight, maybe cross-country. When she got on the plane, she was really tired, found her seat and fell right asleep. At one point she woke up and the person in the seat next to her offered her a newspaper. WIthout looking up, she said, “oh no thanks. I’m so tired, it would make me cross-eyed to read right now.” The man retracted the paper, got up out of his seat, gathered his things and as he went up the aisle to request another seat looked back at my mom. Of course, he was cross-eyed.
This is not a joke or an urban legend. It’s a true story. And I’m afraid it might be a family jinx. What’s worse for me, is when you are trying to make someone feel better, but still saying *just* the wrong thing and only making it worse. It takes me a while to realize that it’s time to just shut the heck up.
This happened years ago on a week long cycling trip in the colorado rockies. There were1600 riders of varying skill. At one point, I was climbing up a mountain pass road and passing someone – a woman who was probably a good 20 years older than me. But hell yeah, she was rockin’ on up that mountain. I always felt bad passing people (because it sucks when people pass you and you are working as hard as you can). I said something as I passed that I had completely meant to be encouraging. I probably should have either said “hello” or just nothing at all! The woman was a complete stranger and whatever words I chose had a very different meaning to me. She approached me a few days later and was very aggressive in telling me how I much had insulted her. She actually made me cry. (Though I didn’t do that in front of her) I was trying to be nice and a) made her feel bad (which I truly hated since it’s something like my job in life to try make people happy) and b) got yelled at for being a bad person. This was six years ago. It still upsets me. On the same trip, I did have a few women actually thank me before they went home for one thing or another I had done during the week that had meant a lot to them. But it’s that one woman who I made feel bad, bad enough to really give it to me, I will never live down. Rich says I’m ridiculous to let stuff like that bother me, but it’s just my nature.
Anyway, I guess sometimes it’s better to shut up since you don’t know a person’s entire story.
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