I work at my local 7-Eleven in my small town on Long Island. It is conveniently located across the street from my train station. Due to this, it attracts rather interesting characters from all over. I have worked there for four and a half years–since I was 14. It feels as though I have grown up there. Since I have been there for so long I have definitely encountered many uncomfortable situations from both men and women. All of these experiences have forced me to learn how to handle certain situations. I feel like one of the main things I have learned, though, is the importance of reading people’s body language and paying attention to the atmosphere in certain situations. Reading body language and paying attention to the world around you can save people’s lives. I think this is something everybody should how to learn how to do. If more people were to pay attention and be cautious of what goes on around them I firmly believe some instances could have different outcomes.
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Since I’m there so often and have been there for so long, it is only natural that I know which customers look at my coworkers and me in weird ways, and which of those customers say inappropriate things to us. These certain customers, sadly, are a natural part of working with the public, especially somewhere such as a 7-Eleven. There are some situations that I remember vividly, and how my coworkers and I handled them. One of the first lessons to learn about reading body language and the atmosphere in a situation is that just because you see something happening does not always mean you have the capability to help. Although this may be a sad realization it’s true. Remember to do what you can, but ultimately it might be out of your control.
One example of this occurred two years ago when my coworker Maddy and I were working together. We noticed a man and a woman come in together, and they seemed like husband and wife. They were in the store for a bit, and Maddy and I seemed to notice the way the man was speaking to the woman. Every time he spoke to her it was in a mean, hushed way close to her face. She always seemed to flinch, and never responded to whatever he said. Neither of us recognized them, so they must have not been from our town. When the man was at the ATM, the woman was walking around and wandered towards the counter. Maddy immediately tried to start a conversation with her. She would not talk back to us at all. Maddy kept asking her, “are you all right?” “Do you need help?” “Do you want help?” She wouldn’t even look at us. It was a nerve-wracking situation. As soon as the man saw that we were speaking to her he came rushing up to the counter, and that was the end of it. We contemplated calling the police, but we knew nothing about them, and he had never touched her. I still think about this situation and wish that I could have done more. I was young and had never really seen anything much like that before. This was when I learned that sometimes even though you want to do something, and have tried to do something, it does not always mean something could be done. Who knows, though, maybe we did do something. Maybe since we asked if she needed help it was the push she needed to decide for herself that she needed help. This was a perfect example of how we were aware of the signs but ultimately we could not do more.
Being in an uncomfortable situation is the worst, especially when it’s unavoidable. Sometimes there is a sinking feeling in my stomach when certain customers are online because I don’t want to help them due to what they could possibly say. Whenever there is a customer that I don’t want to serve or my coworkers don’t want to serve we will help each other out and help that customer. At work, I read my coworkers body languages in order to know if they were uncomfortable. Sometimes, though, customers would pick up on our body language and act on it. The other day this drunk man was eyeing my coworker and me in a weird way. She did not like what she saw and called the police. If it were not for that customer reading the body language and the atmosphere, who knows what could have happened.
The example that really touched me, and what prompted me to write this article, happened the other day when I was at work. I was helping this woman who comes in frequently, and the next person online was someone that I did not want to help. While she was gathering her things, and I told her to take her time. Well, I guess she read my body language, and she stayed there talking to me until the person left. I was so grateful for this random act, and it made me think about the importance of reading people’s body language and the atmosphere around them.
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Reading people’s body language is not something that you can learn over life, but rather it’s something you learn from experience. Over time it is learned what certain mannerisms mean, and how to properly react in certain situations. I hope that after reading this you start noticing things around you. I hope that if you ever see a weird situation you will potentially try to help. Overall, though, I hope there is a world one day where others don’t make people feel uncomfortable around them.