Our refrigerator went on the fritz last week so the Mrs. and I were poking around the appliance stores looking for a replacement. While there, we noticed a particularly rude and smart-mouthed teenager in another aisle causing her mother great pains as she kept rolling her eyes and complaining about having to wait while her mom talked to the salesman.
Her disrespect was so blatant that people all around were shaking their heads.
That's when my wife said that famous sentence we all say, "Somebody ought to say something…"
Well, I run into these things all the time. I bet you do too.
In this case, I should have told that little girl if she didn't straighten up she'd soon be able to read the Amana logo on her forehead whenever she looked in a mirror. Yet, I held my tongue.
But these things that need to be said, all of them would ideally be lumped under the topic, "Things that somebody should say but no one ever does."
Well, who better than me to take a moment and say a few? For those I offend, here's the first thing that should be said. Lighten up a little, okay?
Let's Say Something
Coaches and supervisors that speak at athletic banquets or staff meetings should realize when they are poor public speakers and cut it a lot shorter than they do. Every single person in the room would be happier with them if they did. Every one.
Did any of these people ever stop to consider how patient and collectively polite a whole room of people are being when they all wish they could just stand up and yell, "Man, shut up already!"
How many years will this go on before people realize this basic fact? There, that had to be said. Now you can send this article anonymously to your kid's coach before the next awards banquet. I'll take the heat.
If you're in an elevator with another person, you don't have to stare at the numbers above the door. Say hello and smile. There is no reason to be in the presence of another living being and pretend not to be. Lighten up and say hello.
That car in front of you that's driving slowly in the rain or snow; chances are the person driving is nervous, lost, or afraid. Do you think honking angrily or riding their bumper will improve their driving skills or help them drive up a phone pole? Wherever it is you're going so fast, is it worth a human life? Imagine that's your mom behind the wheel of that struggling car.
When your kid or employee makes a human error, like say, spills something or drops and breaks a dish or jams the copier please fight the urge to make the moment worse by yelling something like, "What the heck happened?"
In that moment, the person already feels bad enough, now here comes you demanding for them to retell the story and make it even more embarrassing. Anyway, you already know what happened -- they made a mistake.
Try quietly going over and helping clean up. Maybe even smile and say something like, "Oh I've done that a million times." Your calmness might help reduce the stress of the situation.
Try not being typical and overreacting. Fight the urge.
Younger people will always need the acknowledgement of accomplishments by older people. Whether they admit it or not, younger people are aware that older people have been on earth longer than them and have seen and been through more.
When those people dispense advice or recognize achievement, it means a lot to a younger person. I don't just mean that parents should congratulate their sons or daughters for being great T-ball players.
I mean like a 40-year-old supervisor of one department saying to a 30-year-old new supervisor of another department something like, "Hey, you're really good with people. A lot of people have noticed your strong people skills."
Do you have any idea how good something like that can make someone feel? And what does it cost you? About five seconds of oxygen that you were going to exhale anyway?
You ever hear someone tell a story and they begin by saying something like, "Last Tuesday I was at the mall and…" And some genius nearby knows it was Monday not Tuesday when he/she was at the mall and immediately pipes in the correction like, "Uh, you were at the mall on Monday, not Tuesday." Boy that person is really helpful, huh?
It was absolutely critical to the story that we knew which day of the week this story was based on. No, it wasn't. Why do people have to do that? Is it some sort of inferiority complex where they have to show they have better command of their memory or something?
Let people talk and let them be responsible for their own details. I can't tell you how disturbing it is to hear someone "correct" someone else as if it's their job to monitor truth and accuracy. Don't teach your kids oneupsmanship by being that way. Kids that were raised with that kind of pressure make such irritating adults. Do the world a favor.
Most of us have an inner voice that tells us what's really important and what's not. However, all day long other people will try to tell you what you should think is important and what you should immediately improve upon or address.
If the personal filter that you run these thoughts through doesn't kick out an urgent response then tell that person to take a hike. We all have family, friends, supervisors, and peers that will gladly pressure us into things if we are always willing to react to their priorities.
Find your own and let them react to you. Thrust: "Better get your storm windows in before this weekend!" Parry: "I have weeks before the cold weather gets here. If I don't get to it this weekend, I will probably next. Thanks for the tip, but I got it covered."
Don't make scenes in restaurant or banks or places where the person you are yelling at is simply a server or a teller. The victim of your heat is likely a minimum wage worker trying to earn a few bucks. They didn't screw up your kid's happy meal or erroneously charge you the bank's late fee.
When you go off like that you make everyone uncomfortable. There are ways of asking questions and making inquiries that are not nasty or attention getting. Remember that old Golden Rule thing about doing unto others? Put it in play here, bubba.
Stop worrying about what they guy in the next car thinks of you. Turn up that radio and sing, man. Let 'em hear you outside. Is there anything wrong with enjoying a song so much that you drop you inhibitions and go with it? I love seeing people playing air drums or belting out that last high note while they sit at a red light. Let it flow baby; just let it out.
And while we're talking about music, it's a fully baked fact that today's music cannot even hold a candle to the love songs, ballads, and stirring melodies of the years that preceded the '60s. Don't even try to challenge that.
Every time my kids play rap I ask the same question, "Is that a song?" "Of course," they say. "Okay... then sing it," I finish, as they realize that noise can't be sung. Then I return my lance to the scabbard. "Ha!" I bellow. They simply shake their heads.
Here's a big one. Stand and deliver when your turn comes around. When the cards deal you an opportunity to maybe deliver a speech, introduce a guest, etc., rise to the occasion and do a good job. Don't be weak and cop out. Suck it up and sell it, man.
Be yourself, but put it all out there. "Please forgive my nervousness, I am not used to public speaking but tonight I have the honor of introducing our special guest lecturer and I am just proud to share the stage with such a distinguished professional. Let's all give a big round of applause for..."
Do it big. Sell it. Have fun with it. What are you so afraid of? Take a bite and be bold. Afterwards you'll feel so good about it and people will respect you for being yourself. C'mon, open those wings and get a little air under 'em.
Finally, use every opportunity you get to tell the people you love and care about that they are important to you. You don't have to be schmaltzy and use the big L word that guys struggle with all the time, but you can let people know you care and that they are important to you without turning it into a love fest. It'll be ten years this month that I lost my dad to a sudden heart attack.
The week before he died I happened to be near my parent's neighborhood after attending a meeting on that side of town. I thought it had been too long since I stuck my head in and said the kind of things you should gratefully say to your parents once in awhile. You know, those people that gave up their lives to give you one?
So, on a whim, I stopped in for lunch. Nothing like mom's cooking. My folks walked me back out to my truck after we'd eaten. I hugged them both and they said something about being proud of me and I recall leaving with just the warmest feeling.
I recall looking at them in my rear view mirror standing in the driveway waving and feeling so fortunate to have such great parents. It would be the last time I'd ever see my dad again except for the brief moment he glanced at me in the hospital during the last attempt to revive him.
As he breathed his last my final thoughts of him were waving in that driveway the week before. I always thank God that I was given the chance to say the things a person should say a few short days before he left this world.
Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.