Do You See What I See? (Perceptions and Misconceptions)


Last night my husband and I went to a new restaurant that opened last week.  We sat at the bar to have a drink and a few appetizers.  While not a franchise, they do have several locations in neighboring states.  We had eaten at one of them on a recent vacation, and we loved the food and the atmosphere.  The restaurant serves Southern food featuring local ingredients, along with specialty drinks and a selection of local craft beers.  As the opening of this new location was highly anticipated and was drawing big crowds, the owners had the foresight to send staff from their other locations to train the new staff.

There were three bartenders behind the bar.  Two of them were moderately busy, while our bartender was a whirlwind of activity as he was making the drinks for the dining area as well.  In chatting with him as he made drinks we learned that he had several years of experience tending bar at other restaurants.  He was attentive and personable, even as the drink orders were coming in nonstop.

I am a people watcher by nature, and I observed the other two bartenders did not jump in to help him when they were caught up.  I also noticed a woman standing by the corner of the bar watching him intently.  It was apparent she was one of the staff brought in from another location to help with training.  Great, except that I found her method of “training” to be off-putting.  She watched his every move, and her facial expressions and head shaking were speaking volumes.  She pointed out more than once that he had either mixed a drink wrong, filled the wine glasses to an improper level, or used the wrong garnish.  When she was not speaking she was either curling her lip up, squinting at him and the drinks, or shaking her head as if in disbelief.  When she was talking she was not using her library voice, and I could hear her clearly from several feet away.  From where I sat she appeared to take great delight in pointing out his mistakes, and it came across that she was targeting him.  She did not once check on the either two bartenders.

I found myself getting upset on this bartender’s behalf.  To his credit he kept his wits, and his demeanor did not change.  If he was bothered by her constant picking he kept it hidden well.  The patron to my left at the bar must have noticed it as well, because he remarked to the woman that she must be the manager.  She said that she was there to oversee the bar and make sure things were being done properly.  This is where I inserted myself.  In my defense, I did try to keep it light.  I stated something to the effect that it was obvious she was training, but she might want to cut him a bit of slack.  (I promise, I was smiling, and there was no “tone” in my voice).  I pointed out that his service was great, that he had not stopped hustling since his shift began, and that we could hear her criticism.  She gave me what I can only describe as a flippant response along the lines that each drink had to be perfect, and they had been far busier than this.  I was dismissed.

I want you to imagine the two little Karens, one on each shoulder, each one determined to force the next move.  Evil former Karen wanted to point out, quite loudly, that even though she was acting in a training position the woman was still representing the restaurant.  Perhaps she should be more aware of her facial expressions and the volume of her voice.  If she needed to make corrections could she not have done so by leaning in and whispering to him?  Could she not keep a smile on her face as there were numerous patrons within sight and hearing distance?  Would it be outside of reasonable thinking that she might offer the bartender some words of praise and encouragement?  Why was she not checking any of the drinks the other two bartenders were serving?  Present day good less evil Karen realized that she probably should have either kept her thoughts to herself or addressed them privately to management.  The better version of me won out.  We paid the bill (adding a generous tip), thanked our bartender, and left.

I thought about this scenario last night and again today.  I would guess that the trainer was left with a less than favorable impression of me.  I was definitely not pleased with her.  Here’s the rub, though…what if we were both wrong?  What if we saw in one another something different than we see in ourselves?  What if my perception of her was not how she would choose to be seen?  She had been brought down by the owners so she must be good at her job, right?  If she could review the situation from my angle would she want to correct her behavior?  What if my outburst, polite though I tried to be, caused her to have misconceptions about me?  Instead of being supportive of the bartender did I come across as being a difficult customer?  I would be devastated to think so, because I go out of my way to be pleasant and friendly to servers and salespersons.  I have been in the service industry, and I know the abuse they sometimes endure.

I find myself wondering how often what we think we see in people is in fact something else entirely.  I should know better than to judge by my perceptions alone.  I have been the victim of this myself.  I have what is now commonly referred to as “Resting Bitch Face”.  (For years it was known as looking unapproachable or intimidating, but now we have a name!)  The point being that I learned from people only after establishing friendships with them that they were initially afraid to strike up a conversation with me.  All due to the look on my face.  A look that I was wholly unaware of having to begin with.  I now make a concentrated effort to smile when people look my way, and I tend to start speaking first to let them know the door is open.

I am glad that I feel the need to analyze what happened.  I am thankful that I have opened my eyes to the fact that I may need to give someone the benefit of the doubt more often.  Iknow that I try not make snap judgements of people as I used to.  I am also proud, though, that I do not sit back idly watching someone being mistreated.  I like knowing that if I saw a customer being rude to that same trainer I would call him out in the same manner.  I love that life will present me with opportunities to be a better person.  I hope that the bartender did an internal fist pump as I defended his honor.

I am sure that I could have reacted in a different, and a better, manner.  What would you suggest I might have done in this situation?  Do you feel there was a time when you were misunderstood or someone else’s perception of you was not accurate?

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53 thoughts on “Do You See What I See? (Perceptions and Misconceptions)


  1. Excellent post….we had a workshop about conflict resolution and part of it was about having a “heart at peace” and they went onto say how SOME people in our life just “irritate’ us and no matter what they do (even nice things). We think that they must be doing something wrong or sneaky because our heart is not at peace with them…so if we can come from a place of peace then we could see things from a different perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh boy. I think you speaking up was the right thing. Maybe, at the very least, it made her question herself. I often feel misunderstood but I know I bring a lot of that on myself by my confidence when I speak which can easily be mistaken as arrogance. I also know tone if voice is at the utmost importance and I have worked really hard on improving mine. Great lesson here and I appreciate you sharing it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As a former bartender and manager, I can assure that lady was wrong. Never ever ever criticize in view of a customer. I won’t do it on a shift unless absolutely necessary. When you ride an associate like that, and publicly, that sets the tone for the rest of the shift. Unprofessional. Good for you for speaking up.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sometimes it is necessary to stick to the views of your own perception. Playing devil’s advocate when the issue is so blatant can do more harm than sticking to your guns. Especially in the defense of others. Besides, it’s just bad customer service.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely would have done the same thing as you…. I think your perception of her was clear since I got the same just from your description! You did right to defend his hard work! I’m sure he appreciated your support!

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  6. Personally I would have desperately wanted to play the role with the devil on my shoulder. I still would contact corporate to let them know how she comes off so they can approach it and retrain her on training. I had a trainer sent to our store EXACTLY like her, in fact she was sent because she had been around the longest but corporate hated using her because she was so ugly and degrading to the employees she trained. Didn’t make for a good impression of the company. By the time I was a DM we had far better candidates and she was never used, though through much trial and butting heads she did calm down over time.

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  7. I really enjoyed this post. I like the way you analyzed your perspective, it is something we don’t do enough. What could we have done differently? Did our personal beliefs blur the reality of the situation? Was my judgment accurate? I too have been known to wear a serious face, I’m silly tho! lol. So perception vs reality, projection vs intent, great topics for a fruitful conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You keep getting better and better! I suffer from the same face-ailment and have many times found myself on the butt-end of knee-jerk judgements. I think you handled the situation well. I hate to see a poor kid frazzled and nervous because of a bad leader, but at the same time, we’ve all been there and maybe he’ll learn how to deal with her “type” because of it. The cool thing is, you just never know.

    PS – more good/bad Karen moments, please! That made me laugh! 🙂

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  9. I really enjoyed this post. I am afraid to say I’ve been considered intimidating many times. It so surprises me when that happens because to myself I know I’m just a gentle soul wanting good for everyone. Alas, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one with this issue and that we can improve! For what it’s worth, I think I would’ve said something too and I think an e-mail to corporate must be done! It can be kindly worded taking into consideration your view on perhaps not understanding her, but actually, now that I think of it, why not just print out this blog you wrote and send it in? Seems silly to write it up twice! 🙂

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    • We are in the same boat, and it is hard to change someone’s perception once they have already judged.

      I did send that email, and I used parts of this post! I also made a point to add in all of the good things about our experience there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Very thought-provoking post, Karen! Now I’m wondering what kind of signals I give off. I applaud you for saying something and then walking away from someone who wasn’t open to other points of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s what I call ‘da bitch’… control freaks. I understand that she has to make sure he does his job right. But if a customer is friendly then you have to address it in a friendly manner, no matter what you think or feel. Hate it when people do this. Makes you feel as if you have to say thank you for being their customer. Especially when the other staff was great…

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  12. I think what you did was right. It wasn’t just your perception – that woman really was doing a bad job of handling it. Criticizing in front of the customer never works! Simply not done… At times speaking up firmly goes a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post! May I draw your attention to a vignette I wrote last spring.

    http://sweattearsanddigitalink.com/2014/06/08/snippet-sunday-8614/

    Your article has got me thinking about how little I focused on the argument I witnessed on that platform. When the first man said (IIRC “you’re a sponger, and a parasite. I know you stole that money and I never want to see you again”. I took him at face value and automatically took against the man against whom the accusation was levelled. We do automatically judge people at face value sometimes, don’t we?

    But what if that wasn’t the case? What if the other man later found the money or later found somebody else was responsible for taking it? The man might have been a waster and a disloyal friend, but the “thief” bit may not have been true.

    As writers I think we need to look through the face value.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a sensitive, artistic person you take in a lot, especially about other people. I agree that manager seemed ham-handed with her job, but it sounds like the bartender handled it well. I might’ve done the same thing and said something. Sometimes you want to jump in and rescue someone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He did handle it well. I think is what bothered me the most- he was doing an excellent job and was fast. You could tell he had experience. It seemed like she was nit-picking him to death. I don’t know if he felt abused, but I was upset on his behalf.

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  15. When you are training or supervising, you never offer criticism in front of paying customers. You offer encouragement, or help but you save the harsh words for later. I think it is appropriate to speak up – but I’m a New Yorker. I have been told I don’t know how to stay quiet 🙂

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  16. Thanks for sharing. Wonderful food for thought. Yes, we are always told, just love and do what love would do. Easy, isn’t it ? But it can be sooo hard to know what love would do.
    My journey is filled with many moments like this one. I can totally relate to that struggle.
    Ultimately, whether your action was appropriate in this situation is something only your inner knowing can tell you.
    I can only share some parts of my experience.
    I had several dreams with the meaning that my well meant actions were sometimes unnecessary and sometimes they even led to undesired outcomes. That made me think. I thought I needed just to go by the golden rule and treat others as I would have them treat me and all would be fine. But the dreams suggested otherwise.
    I recall two events where my children were treated overly strict or downright unfair by teachers. I struggled with both of them. What the heck did this mean ? How have I manifested that one?
    After much reflection, I came to the following conclusions.
    The first event was meant to mirror to me how awful it is if someone who interacts with children is annoyed all the time. That meant I had to look at how I deal with my children and then be grateful that this teacher acted as a mirror and showed to me my unconscious behavior.
    The second event brought up my own feelings of sadness over lack of appreciation of my work. So, I was grateful that this sadness was brought to the light so that I can feel it and look at it and then release it.
    In the first case, I told the teacher that her exaggerated strictness is maybe not appropriate. In the second case, I did not contact the teacher.
    So, sometimes these events are mirrors for something in me. But at other times, these occurrences are meant to force me to speak up despite my my fear.
    I still find it not easy to figure out which action is love based and which one is fear based.

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    • Thank you for such an in-depth, insightful response. While I trust my gut to tell me when I am in an unsafe situation and to guide me in my decision-making processes, I am still learning to listen to my inner voice. After a few days of reflection I do feel that I was correct in speaking up, and correct in walking away when I did.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Lol at ‘resting bitch face’.
    A lot of times our perception of people do end up been wrong just the same way that of others towards us can be the same. There may have been an underlying factor that led to the trainer acting that way, maybe the bartender behind closed doors isn’t as saintly as he was making himself out to be. I once had a manager who to every eye watching from afar seemed to be the saint and I the devil but when you really come close and get to work with her, you find out she is probably the devil incarnated. But that doesn’t excuse the trainer’s degrading attitude. A better way to handle situations can always be used. Good you spoke up though, she will be aware something isn’t right with her method, I guess..

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    • You have given a great example that things may not always be as they seem. It shows how easily our perceptions can be misguided. Now that I’ve let it settle in for a few days I am confident that I read this situation correctly, but it is a great reminder to look a little deeper. Thank you for sharing your input and your experience! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I can’t think of the right word for what I want to say… it was very … big of you? Mature of you? *something* of you, any way, to stop and analyse your reaction.
    I think it’s easy to jump to a conclusion and feel self righteous in the process but it can often be less comfortable to look more closely at our own reactions and admit we might have been a little judgemental, or to allow the benefit of the doubt to someone we don’t particularly like. A good lesson for all of us!
    Thanks for linking up with the #WeekendBlogHop; I love to read your posts.

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    • You are so right- it is not always pleasant to look in the mirror, so to speak, but it is necessary for growth. Thank you for visiting! I love your blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the #WeekendBlogHop!

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  19. Great post! I feel like that all the time, I kniw people prejudge me because I’m shy and I don’t really know how to make small talk. My daughter also has “resting bitch face ” and now tries to initiate conversation. It’s so much harder to judge ourselves than others though, isn’t it? We should give everyone the same or more of a pass than we give ourselves. One never knows what could be going in in someone else’s life right at the very moment your judging them harshly.

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    • A promise I made to myself was to never criticize another unless I was willing to open myself up to scrutiny. You are right, we have no idea what is happening “behind the scenes”.

      I am an introvert and have resting bitch face so it’s a double whammy. As difficult as it is for me to initiate conversations and to be social I do try to make the effort. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      Like

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