Updated: May 3, 2019
At the check out counter at Trader Joes I offer to bag my groceries, a job I had as a kid in my Dad’s store. The clerk is grateful, his eyes light up and he asks me about bagging as a kid. Hey, do all the clerks at Trader Joes take classes in good conversation? Because I always find these clerks engaging and interested in listening. They probe and ask questions, nothing too intimate, but cheerful and dare I say, caring. Or maybe in the back storerooms that smell of cardboard and lettuce, employees sit in a circle on sagging boxes of old produce and pass around a magic milk called, “Customer Friendliness” before their shift begins. They all take a swig and viola, their eyes brighten, a smile emerges, and one by one they push open the double doors and gleefully go out onto the floor.
I know they must be normal people, who have mood shifts like the rest of us. Sometimes we have generosity in our hearts and lots of tolerance for others and their worlds; sometimes we are angry, sick, tired, or burdened by our own small or large demons and then our tolerance is very low. That is when we can’t handle someone else's problems. It is the one Lego block that if we stack it on top would make our pile tumble. So we stay subdued. Conserve our energy. Ideally we turn our smile inward to help our self. Or get help. So that is normal, this ebb and flow of generosity of spirit.
Somebody who reads this is going to have had a bad interaction with a Trader Joe’s clerk somewhere sometime. Okay. I think I know what happened to you. That was the day the team sat in the circle before their shift, rifled through the box, and there were no bottles of magic elixir left. They all stared at each other dumbfounded. How are we going to make it eight hours dealing with needy and annoying customers without our drink? They got angry and started blaming each other for not ordering enough of their magic milk. Marie suddenly stood up and serenely led the team in meditation with this visualization, “Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Imagine you are lying on your back, floating in warm shallow water, held up by curved reeds that cushion you like memory foam. Gently swaying. No worries, peaceful and relaxed.” This experience transformed the team. Their eyes filled with the non-drug induced milk of human kindness, creating a positive work attitude that lasted their entire shift. That person you had a bad interaction with at Trader Joes? Well, she got to work late and missed that meditation session. Sorry!
Good conversations work best when people feel open hearted with the energy to both listen and express themselves clearly. For tools on best communication practices, check out my book, #communicationbreakthrough