Bursting Bubbles – Grumpy Cat

Bursting Bubbles – Grumpy Cat

This guest blog post was written by friend of humanworks Rebecca Michelsen and is part of the Bursting Bubbles series.

Both personally and professionally, I have always felt a connection with this quote from Maya Angelou, “I learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As an introverted person, middle and high school were tough. Being shy and quiet made me an easy target for those with big and loud personalities. As an adult, being introverted has often left me being described as intimidating, mean and even “grumpy cat.” Professionally, I must embrace the opposite despite the extra energy it requires – I am a public speaker and have spent a significant amount of time teaching children and young adults about being kind to one another and building healthy friendships.

That Maya Angelou quote also challenges me as I continue to grow and build relationships. A few years ago, I was returning to my workplace after being off site for a meeting. Upon entering the building, I noticed a co-worker from another department filling in at the front desk. This co-worker had always been intimidating to me because of her extroversion. As I passed through the front doors, she said, “Hi,” to me in her energetic and confident manner. As the introvert that I am, I did not say hi back and I even looked away.

After this brief encounter, I headed to my office and continued with my day. A short while later my supervisor called me into her office. She informed me that another colleague had approached her to let her know that the co-worker, who I did not say hi to, had become extremely upset and felt that the reason I did not acknowledge her was because of her race.

I was completely shocked. I was not sure what to do or how to approach her because I still felt intimidated but was also embarrassed by the way I reacted.  As I reflect back on this incident, I still feel embarrassed.  Embarrassed for giving into my introverted tendencies and not saying hi. Embarrassed for not having the courage to have a conversation with that co-worker about what had happened. My actions spoke louder than my words…or the words I chose not to say. The simplest exchange that I avoided turned into something that deeply hurt another person, a co-worker.  

Pop – Bubble Burst – New Perspective.

Before this incident, I spent a lot of my time viewing the Maya Angelou quote from the perspective of the person who was made to feel bad through someone else’s word or actions. Now, I view this quote from both perspectives. While I still have a difficult time saying hi to those I don’t know well, I make a point to push myself out of my comfort zone and say “hi.” Because it is that simple “hi” or “how are you doing?” that can brighten someone’s day and make them feel welcomed, appreciated or simply seen.