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Grocery store

bananas on display at grocery store

Written by Claire Ranit

Grocery stores are interesting places. For some people, it might be the only interaction they have, face-to-face, with the outside world on a given day.  For others, it might just be a pit stop among many face-to-face social interactions. It’s also a place with people in different states of emotions – some laid back and others in a rush, some focused and others jovially engaging in conversation.

In general, grocery shopping is a positive, efficient experience for me.  But one of my most recent visits was less than enjoyable and it all ties back to emotional intelligence (EI). EI is a more intangible capability that includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.  Under each of those categories is a set of skills that builds into the overall capability. Because of the way these skills weave together, a breakdown in one link of the chain can lead to a breakdown in another.  Without empathy, it’s difficult to manage conflict and resolve disagreements in a healthy manner.  Without emotional awareness, it’s difficult to practice emotional management or self-control.

As it so often happens during check-out, I walked up to the register and the following conversation took place:

Clerk: How are you doing today?

Me: I’m doing fine, thank you. How are you doing today?

Clerk: ……

Me: ……

The clerk never looked up, never responded, and simply continued about their job.  I felt a little dejected and put off, thinking “why ask if you don’t want to know?”  Then I reflected on the fact that something had happened which prevented them from bringing their best self to the interaction – and it had nothing to do with me

But did they know? Were they aware of how their actions were affecting the people around them? The person who had checked-out before me, their co-worker helping to bag my groceries, the person in line behind me.  Sometimes people forget that it’s not just whether a service is delivered, but also how that service is delivered that can have an impact on people.  I walked out with my groceries, so I got what I needed, but I left feeling slightly bad about myself tapping into my knowledge and skills of resilience to shift my perspective and right my ship.  What might this be like for other people in different situations? Maybe at a medical appointment when the staff is trying to get through an overbooked schedule or at the front desk of a social services agency where the front office staff spilled their coffee that morning?

One of the best thing we can do when it comes to EI is focus on developing it in ourselves and creating a culture where others can improve as well.  EI is key not just in healthy social interactions but in healthy professional interactions as well.  Creating a work culture where EI development is expected and supported so that both services needed and how those services are delivered have an overall positive impact on clients.