I had one of those customers today. Actually, several of them. You know the type: they need help with something that they could do on their own. The ones who don’t want you to help but to do it for them. As I walked up to her, I steeled myself for the conversation and put a smile on my face.
As we started talking, this young woman was all over the place. She asked question after question but never gave me the chance to answer. She would interrupt halfway through the explanation and start down not just a different path but through a different forest.
Sighing, I told her we would tackle things one at a time. As the conversation continued, she became more focused and apologized that she had messed things up so badly. In fact, she apologized over and over.
When we got to a place where we were waiting on progress bars, I asked her if I could be candid. She got quiet for a moment and looked right at me.
“Do you realize that you have apologized to me more than ten times since we started talking. You don’t need to do that. You forgot something. You made a mistake. You are human and these things happen. It’s ok.”
She was quiet for a moment.
“I just got out of a pretty crappy relationship. For four years, I was emotionally abused. Everything was my fault and I had to apologize all the time. I guess the habit hasn’t left.”
I was stunned. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say.
“I am really sorry you had to go through that. But you did. And you made it through. You are here. Now. And you matter. You don’t have to apologize to me for being a human being.”
Her face lit up as she smiled and thanked me.
“You know, you wouldn’t be able to tell this from looking, but before I came in here, I was pretty depressed. Actually suicidal. I didn’t feel like anyone cared or even saw me. You’ve just changed that.”
My eyes got wet. How do you respond to something like that? How do you make a total stranger know that you care? How do you make someone feel seen?
“Well, I am glad you are here then.”
I found out that she loves to garden. She started working at a nursery because she is passionate about making things grow. She teaches people how to bring life out of the soil every day. But for some reason, she didn’t think that she deserved the same opportunity.
Before she left, I leaned over and very quietly told her that she would always have a place where she mattered. Just stop by.
I had one of those customers today. You know the ones. The ones who remind us that we do so much more than sell things. The ones who connect to us on a deeply human and emotional level. The ones whose very existence changes us.