Don’t Assume the Worst

I keep a 30-gallon planted aquarium with RO-water, so I visit my favorite “fish shop” regularly. Last weekend, there was a new-to-me staff member working a very busy Saturday shift. 

My tank is happy. My tank is SO happy that I have become a guppy supplier to my shop. I never ask for store credit in exchange. They’re a small local business and I feel they’re doing me a service to re-home my guppy surplus.

When I brought my bucket of guppies in, “new-to-me guy” launched into a stream of preemptive strikes about being very busy, not being the one who handles pricing for livestock, and it not being the day to bring fish in. To another customer, he said it wasn’t the day to ask a lot of questions and even told her that he was helping a customer who was planning to spend more than she was (so she was less important to him). Ouch. 

I calmly said to him, “I know I have to wait my turn. It’s fine. I’m happy to wait. You do your thing.”

When he came around to me and I explained that I didn’t need any credit, he said, “Well, that’s a different story! Why didn’t you say that?!” To which I replied, “Dude, you were freaking out. You weren’t going to hear me anyway and I had planned to wait a bit. No harm, no foul.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last couple of days. This guy had taken the position that everyone expected to be waited on immediately, and no one could understand the position he was in which made him very defensive with everyone he came into contact with. 

It is a superpower to not assume you know what others need. It’s a great thing to anticipate needs, a useful thing to manage expectations, but a bag of worms to assume much of anything. “Don’t take up my time with your questions” is a very different attitude from, “Please allow me to finish with this customer and his complex list, and then I can fully devote my attention to you.”

We all have good days and bad days, certainly. But trying to remember that others don’t know what is going on in your head—just as you don’t know what goes on in theirs—is a good way to stay level and build meaningful interactions.