This is a personal story — from my perspective. It was a cold, clear night after work, and we finally made it downtown for the outdoor holiday market. Detroit was all aglow with colorful lights, a huge tree, and people ice skating in Campus Martius. It was beautiful and festive!
But after almost an hour and a half, I was ready for some hot soup so we headed for the parking lot.
“We better speed it up”, I said to my husband, “I’m a little bit worried about 3 or 4 fingers!” This is not out of the ordinary for a person with Raynaud’s, a small blood vessel disorder that affects the extremities and is activated by exposure to cold. I’ve had to deal with it since college.
Shortly thereafter, we were approached by a man in the street asking if we could sign a petition. I was already shaking my head “no” as my husband was saying “sorry, but no”, and we were continuing to walk when the man retorted “So, are you… moderately tolerant of negroes?”
WHOA! Dude just inferred and then insinuated that we were racist.
My mind was spinning as we walked on. So many ways to interpret this scenario and it’s all a matter of perspective! Let’s consider a few different ones:
A business perspective
Since this is a business blog, let’s look at this interaction from a business perspective.
In case you are in sales or work in a highly people-centric business like I do, giving a sales pitch of any kind first requires the understanding that people are likely to be resistant. You will hear a lot of no’s and must learn to accept rejection gracefully.
In general, you’re likely to have more success:
- in daylight hours,
- when it’s not 25 degrees outside, and
- in a populated area instead of an isolated street.
Even if timing is better, people may still have their guard up. While prospecting, you’ll need to work on delivering information to those who are open to receiving it. And yes, it helps to be nice as well!
A woman’s point of view
Let’s now examine this scenario from a woman’s perspective.
As women, we are conditioned from an early age to be wary of strangers after dark, and in particular men. ANY unknown men! It’s part of the female condition. There is always a balance between personal freedom and being cautious so that you avoid becoming a victim, right sisters? We are sworn to protect this body we are inhabiting to the best of our ability, and that definitely includes having our guard up when a strange man approaches.
On a dark street.
Even if you’re with another person.
That’s just how it will be until there are no more rapists, murderers, and misogynists. Nothing personal guys!
So, trust your instincts, ladies, and screw being “nice” for fear of being judged. You may still be judged, but at least you’ll be safe.
A health concern
Back to the Raynaud’s. Many people still don’t know what it is so here’s a photo I happened to snap last week at the local supermarket. If this is what happens while shopping, you can imagine my concern being exposed to winter temps for extended periods!
Frozen fingers and toes become numb and dysfunctional. It’s always frustrating and can be painful. My activities are always filtered through the lens of how to keep my hands & feet warm. Our interaction on the streets of Detroit was no exception. Raynaud’s, not racism, was driving our need to move quickly that night.
A human perspective
I’ll never know what that man’s real objective was.
Did he simply want us to sign his petition?
Did he want to release pent-up frustration?
Would he have liked to have an actual conversation? I wish we could have had that opportunity.
The thing is, we all judge — often making up our minds in as little as a tenth of a second. It’s a normal part of our complex world where we are literally bombarded with input all day long and need to make efficient decisions. But we also make snap judgments based on very little information. That can be unfortunate when it comes to making up our minds about a person’s character.
With so many dynamics in play and possible perspectives, maybe the greatest gift we can give each other this holiday season would be seeking to understand before jumping to conclusions.