When a person’s feelings get hurt, you don’t get to decide.
I remember an encounter between two of my workmates one particularly stressful work week.
We were all worked up about a big presentation with one of the big investors in our company, and the meetings were endless and ruthless.
One of them, let’s call her May, delivered an honestly excellent presentation about her topic while all of us employees and a team leader were practicing in the board room.
Then one of the people in our team, let’s call her Becky, made a crack about May’s hair; that it shouldn’t be so nappy when time came for our big presentation. She let out an obnoxious guffaw.
As you can guess, May is black, and one of the things she holds very dearly is her appearance in the workplace. We could all see it. We could all understand it.
So it holds no surprise when May stared at her, first in disbelief; then in anger, before she stormed off.
We were all pretty much uncomfortable at this point, and Becky could only manage a defensive “What?”
So of course, damage control.
Understandably, May was upset that Becky insinuated her natural hair was not proper for the workplace, that with a simple joke about her appearance, her entire professionalism might be thrown into question.
Becky meanwhile, still could not get her head around what May was so upset about.
“Honestly, it’s just hair! She should stop getting so worked up about it,” she insisted.
She did not mean to hurt May, she said.
May should get over herself, she cried.
Have you ever felt that that was the most opportune time to clock some sense into somebody? Preferably with a neat upper cut?
Apart from the very obvious racial and discriminatory tone, I hated the way that Becky displayed no sort of empathy.
Instead of trying to understand where May’s place of hurt was coming from, she kept insisting that because she meant no harm, then May shouldn’t feel attacked.
To every other Becky you might encounter in your life, give them the hard lesson: When someone makes it known to you that you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to say you didn’t.