This is a guest post by Chelsea Carr

“You did not listen to me!” The woman pointed at me from across the counter. “See? She listened… You did not listen to me.” Well, what can you say to that? Not much.

Anyone working in retail knows that, to many customers, once you step foot behind the register, you cease to exist as an individual. You become part of whatever store you work in and all you are there for is to ring up customers. It can be a difficult experience, losing your identity in this manner, something I learned the hard way at work one night.

Despite working retail for almost two years, the fact that someone would talk to me so harshly was shocking. I knew that I had listened to the customer—that’s my job and it is because of my good listening skills that I was promoted to manager. But, you can’t make everyone happy. And although the experience of having a customer shout and point at me was horrifying, it helped me to rethink how I present myself to others.

We all have good days and bad days. Things can go wrong, but then they can go so right that you find the circumstances hard to believe. No matter what your day is like, though, things are always better if you look at the world with a smile on your face.

A smile can help you to feel better and can make all the difference in the world to other people—for example, someone ringing you up at a cash register. Yes, they are working, but they are also trying to get by in the world. Who knows what their life is like? The customer who yelled at me didn’t know that I was a college student who lived at home and worked every day after school to pay tuition.

There are those commercials on television about “Kindness – pass it on.” That’s what we need to do as human beings. I didn’t know what the story is for the cashier at the gas station I went to following work that same day, but I smiled at her and asked her how her night was going before she could give her obligatory greeting to me.

We can’t know everything about a person just by looking at them and judging someone isn’t right. But still, it happens. No matter how hard you try, you are often judged in life—for your looks, speech, or appearance. You just have to take it with a grain of salt and then learn from the experience.

This isn’t to say that all shoppers are rude—far from it! I can’t count the many times I’ve had wonderful conversations at my register with customers who smile and laugh and tell me their stories.

The other side of the experience with the customer who yelled at me is that I didn’t know what the customer’s life was like. Perhaps a difficult, personal situation was the reason that she was quick to become frustrated with me, despite my best efforts. And I was reminded after that night at work that I had a wonderful family to go home to; no matter how my shift at work ends, I get to go back to a place where I am happy and cared for.

My experience that night was thought-provoking, in ways that surprised me. For every person who is rude and uncaring, there are many more people who are kind and thoughtful. I like to remind myself that life is what we make it to be—an experience that can be rewarding and fulfilling, or depressing and pointless. And what fun is there to be found in a pointless existence?

When someone is rude to you, give them your biggest smile and politely say, “Have a nice evening.” Sometimes, being friendly is all it takes to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Chelsea Carr is an English major focusing on professional writing at Fitchburg State University. She is a part-time manager at a nearby retail store. She tries to live her life day-by-day, taking every experience as it comes “because life is too short” to do otherwise. Chelsea was originally a nursing major and says she always gets a funny look when people find out that she switched from nursing to English. She wants to help people through her writing, which she plans to do as well as she could have through healing. Chelsea has three younger sisters and two wonderful parents, all of whom she is grateful to have in her life.

What are your experiences with smiling and how it has impacted your own happiness? Join the conversation with your comments…