For a very long time, I was an on-and-off stay-at-home mom. It has not really been by choice either, mainly because of the job market and just working for whack employers or small Massage Therapy/Spa businesses that either didn’t last very long or were very bad at advertising among many other things. Being that I worked in the Massage Therapy field, I never really came in contact with large amounts of people at a time while on the job. The last time I had worked a retail job was in 2005, before I had my first son. I was a complete hermit, in between the MT jobs and being at home for periods at a time. The one exception was when I worked at these office suites as a receptionist managing many phones lines but even then it was a pretty chilled out job for the most part.
I started working retail again after many years, in January of 2013. Obviously out of necessity. I felt I had no choice at the time since I had hit some super rough times and needed anything to keep me afloat. After feeling like a hermit for so long, suddenly being in that kind of job can be like waking up to cold water being thrown in your face (giggle). Initially I was pretty over-sensitive. My people skills and tolerance threshold were not the best. I had to realize that dealing with some of the people I was dealing with was pretty much the equivalent of dealing with overgrown children. I have never allowed myself to treat a retail employer like complete garbage over anything, much less because the item I wanted wasn’t in stock! For someone who has been sensitive and empathic for a large part of her life, I abhor harsh energy and throwing it at others just because. I had to arm myself with spiritual techniques as well as continuously remembering that the world is in pain.
When I speak of spiritual techniques, I am referring to my belief in shielding. I practice visual shielding techniques, and meditating with grounding/protective stones and crystals. Prayer by itself is fine too. Whatever you rely on for spiritual protection is fine as long as you believe in it and it works for you. I am a believer in energies and auras. Because of trauma, not-so-pleasant life experiences, we all, at some point, end up carrying negative energy around in our auras. If you are an empathic person and are sensitive to energies, you end up picking up many of the ones you come in contact with. You will feel their emotions, intentions etc. So as you can imagine, working retail can be taxing for someone like myself.
You have all types of angry and hurt people walking in and out. Some will complain and even curse you and call you out of your name. On top of my shielding techniques, the patience and assertiveness I had to build, I also had to keep in mind that some of these people are compensating for something they lack or they are just angry at life. I used to have my bouts of self-consciousness but that stopped when I reminded myself repeatedly that many people who are disrespectful and have nasty behavior, are hurt or trying to prove themselves because they lack something.
Sometimes when I would have to deal with some of the customers who behaved in this way, I would keep my calm demeanor, even remain aloof and detached from the behavior because I know it wasn’t about me. I would give them the proper greeting and a genuine smile and I started seeing a transformation happening in these people. Their whole demeanor and mood would change in a positive way. There was no longer any tension in the air and the energy became lighter. They would leave different than when they came in. This truly has worked most of the time for me. When you work to radiate a positive energy you can change the people around you and inspire them to be better. I have been on the other side of the coin, not necessarily in a retail setting but in other occasions when I’ve been feeling down and out and just the smile of another and their greeting or laughter changes my day.
Another thing I have learned to apply more often to many situations is assertiveness and standing my ground. When things start to get out of hand and you have a ruthless customer who is yelling and cursing at you and is asking you to check the stock room again for their item or to print a whole entire large order of pictures out for free because of a mistake on a single one of them, you have to answer confidently regardless of weather you think they’re not going to like the response. Or just explain that you will get your manager but never cower. I used to be that shy, conflict-phobic chick back in the day and I see that a lot in some retail employees. Being assertive gets straight to the point instead of flinching, cowering and apologizing a billion times for things you cannot control. Yes, some customers do think that you have control over the prices.
The best way to be is assertive and positive. Detach as much as you can from negative reactions and behavior because it isn’t about you. Let working this type of job inspire you and grow you to be better and to rise above that kind of behavior. Remind yourself that it is not something you want to become and stand tall. No one is better than anyone, and no one is below anyone. If someone is being an a**hole, they are either in emotional pain, or compensating for what they lack.