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The Difference Between Getting By and Getting Better

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When you do something the same way long enough, it stops occurring to you that it can be done differently.

I’ve begun making up for thirty years of mediocre interactions with clerks and cashiers. I was a very shy kid, so I often mumbled my way through retail exchanges. I wasn’t impolite, but I said nothing more than necessary, and didn’t always attempt eye contact. It didn’t feel great, but it worked well enough, and the cashiers didn’t seem to mind.

I’m much less mumbly as an adult than I was at eight, but I’ve apparently still been coasting on the same minimalist approach, navigating retail transactions politely, but not warmly. Hi. I don’t need a bag, thanks. Great, thank you. All in a low voice, sometimes verging on a whisper.

A few weeks ago, after apparently having acted through pure habit for thirty years, I suddenly became conscious of just how needlessly unpersonable I’d been that whole time. As I lifted my grocery bag and spoke my usual “Thank you,” my voice was so low that no sound actually came out. Rather than make a second attempt at speech, I nodded to signal thanks but the cashier had already turned to the next person.

This moment made me realize that I was still operating with a strategy designed by an eight-year-old. Even though the exchange was now driven by habit rather than anxiousness, I was still speaking with so little conviction that a slight vocal waver could turn my words into nothing at all.

I decided it was worth getting better at this one small corner of life. So I began to make a game out of having warmer and more deliberate checkout exchanges. I speak up, engage, smile. It amounts to a straightforward switching of intentions: each purchase is now a chance to become a slightly more personable customer (and person), rather than simply the final step of the shopping process.

This switch from the old way was easy of course, because in the meantime I’d become an adult—I’m running a far more capable system, I just hadn’t thought to update the software.

It made an immediate difference. The typical counter exchange is now a small pleasure I look forward to, rather than an obligatory procedure to accomplish the task of shopping. Going to the store feels less anonymous and solitary. Small talk, in all situations, feels a little more natural.

I wish I’d taken this approach for the last thirty years, rather than simply repeat the Minimum Viable Effort pattern of my childhood. By the time I realized I had two options—getting better each time, and not bothering to—they’d become equally easy to exercise. If I had made getting better my predominant habit all along, I’d be an expert at these sorts of interactions by now.

And that’s not a small thing. The skills developed over a few thousand checkout-line exchanges alone would have aided me in many higher-stakes social situations—job interviews, dates, parties, collaborations at work. Over time, the difference could have compounded into life-expanding friendships, contacts, career opportunities, who knows. Those new experiences would have led to new skills, and so on.

Depending on your own personal history, there isn’t necessarily a lot at stake in how you conduct yourself at a cash register. What I’m trying to get at with my idiosyncratic cashier-focused story is this: there’s a vast difference between the habit of getting by, and the habit of getting better, and you may, without realizing it, be free to choose between them.

When you’re a kid learning to navigate life, you inevitably find certain things particularly challenging. So you figure out a way to get by. You sit in the back because you can’t bear to be put on the spot. You make jokes to defuse tension when the topic turns serious. You take on way too much to avoid asking for help.

The people around you don’t seem to need these same survival measures. You only know that you do, at least for the time being. Your way becomes normal, at least to you, and you live your life.

By a certain point, you’ve grown enough that you can do better than get by, although you might not notice it. But by then, you’re quite identified with the way you’ve always done things. So you might still always sit in the back because you think you belong there, never quite realizing that the whole room is open to you, and has been for some time.


Image by Brooke Cagle

Ron February 4, 2020 at 2:15 am

Great post, David. You made the Martin Buber you-to-thou change in how you see and engage with other people (checkout cashiers in this case) and the profound difference that change of perspective makes. And you demonstrated how easy it is to unconsciously get lost in habitual behavior – and how to see and change that behavior. And with your hallmark clarity and daily-life relevance. Well done.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 9:20 am

Thanks Ron. I had not heard of Martin Buber, but his philosophy looks interesting, so I’ve bookmarked some articles on I and Thou.

Barbara Buck February 4, 2020 at 4:12 am

Lovely post David. It is so important to notice and challenge the things we did as children which are now ingrained (and unnecessary) habits. Thanks for the reminder.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 9:29 am

Agreed. I guess noticing and challenging them are two different tasks. In this case the noticing was the hard part.

Rocky February 4, 2020 at 5:21 am

Howdy David….It seems like we were just talking about the great value of human interaction. Just a bit of small talk with the cashier is providing a healing for you. On the flip side, I can totally see you speaking one sentence to that cashier that could change their life. I imagine there are some nice smiles involved as well :)
Many thanks for another great post !

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 9:33 am

Heh.. I don’t expect to change anyone else’s life, but more connection is definitely better for everyone. In my case it is definitely healing, because I’ve spent so much time being distant in those situations.

John February 4, 2020 at 6:54 am

I agree with Rocky’s reply – I bet that’s true. When I was a cashier at the gift shop at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in 1999 and 2001, the days were fairly dull but not terrible, and I was on the shy side of the interaction. There were a few rude customers every week, who made the whole thing unpleasant, and there were a few cheerful customers every week, whose presence stood out and made the ordinary days tolerable and even satisfying.
Someone who made a joke or a friendly comment about the weather or something in the zoo stood out for days to me. Even after twenty years, if I can’t remember the exact topic of conversation, I can still remember feeling buoyant because I was treated kindly, and it was something I’d tell the other cashiers about.
Consequently, I occasionally remind myself how not everyone’s favourite job is to stand still for eight hours and bag food and type and rehearse a few scripted lines to keep their position, and I think that, maybe if I sprinkle something happy into the exchange we have, it can’t hurt and it could help. And by the nature of our routines, we’re likely to cross paths with the same cashiers over and over again, so we’ll be having many chances to grow even slightly more comfortable with these brief interactions, through repetition with those same people.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 10:19 am

Hi John. I appreciate the perspective from the other side of the counter. I think I have been discounting the value of being a bright and engaged customer. I’ve wondered if being more personable means more work for them. But I do know the pain of tedious jobs, and how a pleasant interaction can make a person’s day. You also brought up something I hadn’t thought of, which is that we do see the same staff many times, and we can choose whether we stay distant that whole time, or let that natural familiarity develop.

Brian February 4, 2020 at 7:24 am

Using the server’s name is a bonus–most wear a name tag. We love hearing our name: someone truly recognizes our existence. I love seeing neutral faces blossom into a smile when you use a server’s name. I try not to say a simple “Thanks”, I make it a more individual “Thank you for your assistance” or “Thanks for looking after us this evening.” I try to go beyond servers; I also greet housekeeping staff with a smile. Most of the time these people are invisible to us whom they serve–what would our world look like without housekeepers? Dismal! These little interactions are human magic, and we benefit from them as much as those we recognize.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 10:22 am

Ah the old Dale Carnegie magic trick. It absolutely does work. I was a housekeeper in a hotel once, and I still remember the very few meaningful interactions I had with guests.

woollyprimate February 4, 2020 at 11:53 am

I must be the lone exception. I absolutely *HATE* when someone uses my name in that way. I feel like they are trying to manipulate me.

Brian February 5, 2020 at 4:13 pm

I feel similarly to woollyprimate. We can have a fun and engaging conversation, both as stranger and as pals, but people who know me don’t use my name in conversation, only to catch my attention. Don’t pretend you “know” me just because you can read my name tag.

Judith February 5, 2020 at 4:53 pm

You are not alone. I despise it as well. I have always felt it is a method of intimidation…. or at least I am tending to feel intimidated and thus not at all attracted to the interaction or person.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 5:07 pm

@woollyprimate — I don’t think you’re alone… I have reacted both ways to to having my name used, and I think it comes down to the apparent intention of the person saying it. When a salesman keeps saying my name but doesn’t seem like he particularly cares about me, that is annoying.

Nathan St. Pierre February 4, 2020 at 8:05 am

“And that’s not a small thing. The skills developed over a few thousand checkout-line exchanges alone would have aided me in many higher-stakes social situations—job interviews, dates, parties, collaborations at work. Over time, the difference could have compounded into life-expanding friendships, contacts, career opportunities, who knows. Those new experiences would have led to new skills, and so on.”

I hate it when you’re right

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 10:30 am

This was actually supposed to be the main point of this post, but I think I may have drifted from it. Life must be full of these diverging paths between just doing the thing that works in the moment and doing the thing that makes things better over time. It doesn’t cost a lot to try to get better at something when you do it.

Donna February 4, 2020 at 9:27 am

That was a refreshing post. Small things matter. They often lead to greater success.
If you are a parent or grandparent, encourage your young children on speaking up and smiling. A smile works in any language .

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 5:03 pm

“A smile works in any language”


Jan February 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

I’ve gotten in the habit of trying to relate to cashiers and customer service personnel as individuals. The question, “How are you today?” sometimes yields surprisingly personal conversations. Other times, just a one-word response. Either way, I leave feeling I’ve made an effort to connect.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 10:32 am

I’ll try this. I’m always worried about putting someone on the spot, but they can always just give a one-word response if they like.

Tony February 4, 2020 at 10:15 am

Thank you for this.

Elizabeth M. February 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

I’m an introvert who has learned the value of connecting with people I see through the day: the cashier, the next person in line, the spouse at a dinner party who is being ignored in the shadow of an extroverted partner, the person sitting beside me at the drugstore waiting for a prescription. I live in a small town in northern Alberta, and now know a shocking number of people, and have heard some amazing stories. I knew I was incurable when I started talking to someone while waiting for a traffic light to change, and the conversation got so interesting so quickly that we missed the light changing, and had to wait through another cycle before we could cross the street.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 10:34 am

You’re an inspiration. I love that this is possible :)

Clay Nicolsen February 4, 2020 at 10:42 am

Great essay! I was always very shy. My standing joke is that I couldn’t talk to women until I was 30. But, military service (and the Dale Carnegie Course!) made a huge change in me. My daughter’s fiance says I’m the most outgoing person he’s ever met. And, I try to generally have a positive view of life. Camp Calm helped a lot! When I’m in the checkout line and the cashier asks “How are you today?”, my most common answer is “Super!” I get a lot of laughs and an occasional “Now that’s what I like to hear!” And, yes, I’m one of the guilty ones who strike up a conversation with random strangers while waiting in a line.

There’s another key part of this…when you turn a routine greeting from a cashier or sales clerk into something better, you make their day! Now, it’s a human-to-human contact, and that changes everything.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:36 pm

Wow, well done Clay. It’s great to know a person can cross from shy to gregarious like that. I appreciate your kind of energy when I encounter it out in the world :)

Tangie Solow February 4, 2020 at 10:49 am

I “sort of” do this sometimes. I’ve thought of how generally impersonal and unsatisfying my interactions are with clerks and servers and once in awhile go out of my way to change that, but I live in California where there’s 40 million of us and we’re all busy and in a hurry, and thought that’s just how it is here. After reading your post, I’m inspired to do what you do and make a conscious effort to connect. What a heartwarming prospect. I’m lookin forward to beginning today.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:37 pm

There’s definitely a kind of feedback loop that can happen. I know that the more I expect others to be closed off, the more I’m closed off, so it kind of makes it seem true, even though a different reaction was possible. I’ve found that when I’m upbeat and the other person isn’t, it feels totally okay, and I understand because I’m that person sometimes too.

Leisureguy February 4, 2020 at 11:17 am

This reminded me of something from decades ago, when directory assistance still relied totally on human operators. The phone company had a problem: directory assistance operators quickly burned out — people who called directory assistance were generally frustrated and often even angry, and the operator bore the brunt of that — so that operator turnover was high. An industrial psychologist was brought in.

First, operators were trained (using recordings of previous encounters) to rate the anger/frustration level of the callers on a scale of 1 (happy) to 10 (rage). Fairly quickly operators were consistent in their ratings and able to quickly rate a new recorded encounter.

Then, operators were told that the object was to reduce the rage rating in the course of the call — by at least 1 point, but better by 2 or 3. They were taught some techniques to use: tone of voice, mirroring, showing understanding and empathy, and (of course) efficiently providing the information sought — but also showing pleasure in being able to help.

Then they went live. They were not only successful in general in reducing customer anger, the operators also enjoyed the interactions, which now had more the nature of a game and a way to succeed and to compare among themselves their success stories. Moreover, very angry customers were “better” because it’s much easier to take a 10 to a 7 than it is to take a 4 to a 1. So an operator actually felt good when the customer was bordering on rage: an easy win for the operator.

Adding this goal changed the nature of the game and made the whole thing more interesting for operators (and a better experience for customers).

This occurred to me because you are doing something similar with the checkout clerk: changing the interaction with the goal of creating a better experience for the clerk (and thus for yourself as well).

Just a thought, albeit a somewhat long-winded one.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:43 pm

That is really interesting, and I totally believe it… Making a kind of game of it is a big part of the motivation for me. I never know how the interaction will transpire, but each time I get in line at a till, I see it as another chance to play, and that’s way more fun than just going through the motions.

Brian February 4, 2020 at 12:21 pm

I’ve made a similar discovery recently. We all kinda want something bigger and better, but for some reason, we lose sight of the little things we could be doing in the day-to-day that drive those outcomes.

We have more in common with the people serving our food and ringing up our purchases than we do those titans of industry in their ivory towers we might aspire to be one day. It just feels better being real, being human.

Another nice idea along these lines? Try conditioning yourself to smile when you walk through doorways. It’s a great way to make a first impression before you make your first impression.

(Suddenly, I feel like I might have picked that idea up here once upon a time. Is that one of yours, David?)

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:45 pm

I do love doorway-related practices. I’ve used them as mindfulness reminders for years now, which may be what it reminds you of, but I’m going to try smiling too.

Steven Schrembeck February 4, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Everyone says “Have a nice day.”, but if you simply move that line to the middle of the encounter instead of the end it comes across as genuine rather than token.

You can see the difference on their face when you say “I really hope you have a nice day.” while they are scanning.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:54 pm

That makes sense to me, and I think it has something to do with the effect of clichés. When a phrase is used in a way we’re used to hearing, it doesn’t really register and we don’t really think about it. But if the same through comes through in a new way, it would probably feel more genuine, because it doesn’t sound like it’s being said out of habit.

Sharon Hanna February 4, 2020 at 1:39 pm

David – I thought of you and this post when at a PetroCan station this morning. Usually I do interact – sometimes quite a lot – with ‘service’ people. But instead of just being kind and pleasant, I asked the attendant where he was from (Pakistan) and how long he’d been here (5 years). His demeanour changed from the usual ‘have a good day’….by the way, there is a book called “Resisting the Attention Economy” which you and your readers might be interested in, by Jenny Odell. Found it on Tricycle today. Gets good reviews – unfortunately on Amazon – ah well.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 4:56 pm

Thanks Sharon. I just looked up the book and found this blurb from NYT, which makes it sound right up my alley: “A complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto.”

Maryellen February 6, 2020 at 8:35 am

Sharon, you can buy the book directly from the publisher or ask your favourite bookstore to order it for you. Amazon is fortunately not always our only option.


Cathie B February 4, 2020 at 2:24 pm

It has taken me 50 plus years to go from painfully shy child to someone who literally talks to anyone and everyone. As any introvert will tell you, this is
hard work but well worth it. My husband and I travel a lot and make a point
of talking to everyone we encounter- airline staff, housekeepers, servers,
receptionists, taxi drivers, tour guides, gardeners. People are so interesting and so worthy of our attention. We were on the hurricane-ravaged island of
Dominica just last week. We heard stories of destruction and heartbreak and hope that literally brought us to tears. We wouldn’t have heard these stories
if we hadn’t sought out interaction with almost every person we met. We shared laughs and tears and hugs with all the wonderful people we met and
it became more than just another winter holiday to escape the Manitoba winter. The best comment came from a tour guide who told us he, “had no
idea Canadians could be so silly”. Best compliment ever! Thank you David for your amazing capacity to make me rethink how I do things.

David Cain February 4, 2020 at 5:02 pm

This is very inspiring Cathie. I want to move steadily towards interacting with anybody and everybody.

Ed February 4, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Great post, made me think about what other simple things we could change that may have a compounding effect.


David Cain February 5, 2020 at 11:17 am

I thought about that too. I suppose every time we do something we have a choice of whether to go through it the familiar way, or to try to improve it a bit. The timeframes are long, so the gains can be great.

Shaun February 4, 2020 at 8:16 pm

When I was working as a cashier I was in the reverse situation most of the time. To get through a mind-numbing 8 hour day it was all I could do to stay sane by talking to the customers as much as possible. I made many great connections, even friends, through doing that. Having spent 18 years in my previous career in an office environment where people at opposite desks communicated through online messaging it took a lot of work to practice getting better at real communication. Even now, another 5 years on, it is still my main goal for improvement.

Great post, thank you. I’ll borrow a quote or two for my own blog.

David Cain February 5, 2020 at 11:26 am

Glad to be getting the cashier viewpoint on this issue. I really didn’t know whether particularly engaged customers were a high point, or just more work

Bobbi February 5, 2020 at 8:47 am

I have changed up the end of my interaction to looking people in the eye & saying “Take care” & mean it when I say it. I’m constantly surprised by how people are touched by this.
So glad you wrote about this & are doing it. You have such a great smile to offer to others too!

David Cain February 5, 2020 at 11:27 am

Eye contact is a powerful thing, which I guess is why I have often avoided it. But I do know the feeling of a sincere salutation, from having received so many.

Kathy February 5, 2020 at 10:11 am

Face to face human contact is diminishing. This, along with the perceived “busyness” of modern city living, density, social media, and not to mention ear buds, we’re losing our skills. Imagine needing a government ministry focused on loneliness. We’re losing our basic ability to interact with other people. If we can’t have a ‘good’ interaction at the grocery store, bank or in a restaurant, how will we ever solve a conflict! Whatever we practise will improve.

David Cain February 5, 2020 at 11:29 am

A Department of Loneliness sounds like a great seed for speculative fiction novel. *runs to typewriter*

Brian February 5, 2020 at 3:59 pm

For me it wasn’t a conscious choice, but several years ago I realized I had become more comfortable engaging unnecessarily in public. Shy probably is not the best way to describe how I felt growing up; perhaps reserved is better. Both my father and his father were highly engaging with cashiers and wait-staff, often to a point of embarrassment for their families.
Having spent my whole career in service, in a retail environment, I learned early on how to be helpful and engaging, even in heated situations, but not conversational with strangers. Now my interactions with people tend to be rare, but long and exhaustive (if not exhausting, for all) when they do happen. My way of dealing with this now seems to be finding opportunities for brief moments of banter, whenever I stop at the grocery, the bank, the post office, the hardware store, etc. (not unlike my dad and grandfather apparently).
My tip: Humor.
I remember once in a grocery line, the new cashier needed a moment to look up the code for a cucumber. When I helpfully identified the vegetable for her she did not at first seem amused, but my wife apologized for my “misbehavior” and it seemed to brighten her day. I regret not calling it an uncured pickle.
Another time I was chatting with a cashier about Challah, working late one night at the grocery. She said, “This looks really good.” and I replied, “It is, and it makes the best French Toast.” She then asked, “How do you make French Toast if it’s not sliced?” I looked at her, smiled and said, “I slice it.” She was horrified, but we had a good chuckle.
Somehow it seems my shoes feel lighter walking away from these quick chats.
Another tip: Humor is even more helpful in a hospital, but I have not yet met an anesthesiologist with a sense of it.

David Cain February 7, 2020 at 2:14 pm

I don’t remember who said it first, but humor might be the best thing people do :)

Sharon February 5, 2020 at 7:27 pm

I have met an anesthi-whatever….not sure how to spell it exactly. But she not only has a sense of humour, but she was growing her own food at home (seriously) in Vancouver which fed her and her husband year around. Since I had written a book about growing food, and she knew about it, we had a fantastic time as I was waiting for her to put me out ;-) In fact we were having so much fun that the OR staff was getting pissed off that we were taking so long.

Maryellen February 6, 2020 at 8:19 am

One of the reasons I don’t use self-checkout machines.

Lazy Radish February 6, 2020 at 3:04 pm

I went grocery shopping earlier today and thought of this post. When going to the cashier, I thought to myself “just talk to the person”. But what actually happened is that I kept silent for quite a while. My brain started kicking in and accused me like “Come on, just talk to the cashier. What’s wrong with you, just say something.” After a few more iterations in this unproductive loop, I actually got the courage and talked to the cashier. And it was pleasant small talk, of course. It made his day a bit better, and mine, too. It’s funny how so easy things sometimes seem so hard. I should have done that twenty years ago, lol.

David Cain February 6, 2020 at 4:19 pm

It’s such a fascinating moment when you observe it. There’s this strange aversion, and then when you push through it almost always a little bit of connection is welcome. Not always, but almost.

Belle February 8, 2020 at 6:09 pm

I loved your comparison between “the habit of getting by” and “the habit of getting better”. Very empowering to think of change like that.

Michael Gambill February 7, 2020 at 8:30 am

For some time I have observed how humankind goes about life insulated from all but the most familiar and comfortable surroundings. I envision the world populated by thousands of people-size mobile fortresses (think a big rook chess piece) scurrying through the day with its occupant ensconced behind near-impenetrable defensives. It is safe and secluded but it leaves life untouched, unencountered, for millions. It is the epitome of the lyrics of the Paul Simon song, “I touch no one and no one touches me.” Yes, it’s “safe” but it stifles access to everything around us—people, scenery, routes, ideas, emotions, even weather. It is for most the default mode of living. My guiding principle for the past year has been “NO BOUNDARIES/NO WALLS.” Every day I discover in myself new walls to tear down— a chance encounter with a stranger on a dark street, a peculiar philosophy, or getting expectedly soaked by a cold rain. Removing these barriers gives me access to Life at its fullest.

David Cain February 7, 2020 at 2:15 pm

I definitely resonate with the “tear down the walls” message. Human beings are best when they connect on a meaningful level, and it’s easier than ever not to.

Linda Shaw February 7, 2020 at 10:06 am

Great post David, you make a concept that seems scary and foreign, seem so simple. Baby steps. Thank you for sharing. Linda

David Cain February 7, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Thanks Linda. That’s what I tried to present here: a doable baby step.

Derrick Whyte February 7, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Yes! Everything you have said is living life more consciously in the moment! Different every second and every minute. “Awakened Doing” Don’t be a robot. Be more conscious. Gives great results! Inside and out. Great post!

Susie February 8, 2020 at 10:42 am

Great essay. I need to revisit this myself. I find myself irritated so often when getting groceries that I can forget to be kind. When my kids were little and shy we would play a game when going shopping called the “friendly game.” The winner was the one who spoke to the most people. Anyone was fair game – shoppers or employees. A smile was required for the interaction to count. My daughter tells me she employs it with herself once in a while when she’s feeling shy in a new situation. Winning!

David Cain February 9, 2020 at 3:55 pm

That’s a great idea. Making a game of it is a big part for me. Each time I get in line it’s like a new “at bat”… another chance to see how well I can do it this time.

Paulina February 9, 2020 at 12:52 pm

Love your cashier post, so simple and so true. Well I am glad you were able to notice that without going through a major life crisis like me. I went through an unexpected painful divorce which made hungry to know more about me and why I do the things I do. I discovered with surprised how much a lot of my behavior came from my little girl and I was in shocked. my Pain brought me tremendous awareness about my self and who I am. I am literally another person. :-)

David Cain February 9, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Part of it is just that… my recent proactivity around social connection stems from what you might call a midlife crisis. I’ve always neglected this aspect of life and all at once I realized it’s actually been a massive limiting factor this whole time.

Margo February 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm

I don’t know why this made me so happy! I think it does matter to the cashier/server that you take the time and effort to interact. At least it did to me in those types of jobs. I know you were primarily doing it to practice a skill for yourself but it still speaks to human compassion in my opinion. For all you know they might have been having a crap day and your interaction brightened it up.

David Cain February 9, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Reading the comments here has added this second level to the motivation — I want to make the day better for the other person. Part of my hesitation to ever do this before stemmed from the fear that the other person wouldn’t respond in kind and I’d feel rejected. But a lukewarm reaction could also mean that person was feeling isolated themselves and now they may be less so.

greg February 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Interesting read and observations. I am friendly by nature and appreciative of someones help so it was interesting to see that a sincere and kindly interaction is not what others experience. I believe JK Rowling was spot on in her observation via Albus Dumbledore “You are unfailingly kind. A trait people never fail to undervalue, I’m afraid.”

Of course fear of rejection could dissuade someone from expressing gratitude (though highly unlikely in an exchange with a cashier) but I think many folks are paying attention to what is next on the to do list so just keep moving. I would hope that people wishing to make the connection do so sincerely, and with all giving interactions expect nothing in return.

Jacob Zoller February 18, 2020 at 2:19 pm

In my case it’s the same thing in the opposite direction. I grew up being loud and craved attention. I’ve learned it’s nice to sometimes sit back and observe.

I just love your thoughts, David. Thank you for the impact you’ve made on me.

Henna February 20, 2020 at 7:25 am

Was often sitting on the other side of the table, scanning stuff, and in order to keep myself sane from getting bored and crazy, set as my aim to talk to and engage with every possible person who was up for it. I often had a queue of old smelly guys with one beer bottle to buy! :D And yes, it felt bad when people kinda looked through me. After twenty years I remember many of those customers who interacted in an interesting, often warm way. And since then I of course want to offer others working those dull jobs the same human pleasure.

And yes, I think repetition has made me quite a professional by now, never though of it that way. I grew up so shy I could hardly make my voice heard in public places with people I didn’t know… At 14 I decided to start training talking loud enough to be heard in class. And at 17 started at that grocery store. It could’ve gone quite differently! (Like… at least this thing I got right! Ehh.)

David Cain February 20, 2020 at 9:20 am

I wish I’d started earlier! Oh well, I do feel like I’m on track now. Each visit to the store feels like another chance.

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