Oy. It happened again.
A perfect example of how ‘packaging’ affects communication.

Let me fill you in.
I had a Saturday off recently, the first one in ages, and a friend from abroad came and visited. We had a wonderful time. After a lovely lunch and a stroll, we passed a small boutique which had a dress in the window that my friend admired. She went in to see if they had it in her size.

She held up the dress, looking at it lovingly.
She walked up to the owner and asked if she could try it on.
The owner said ‘First I have to see if it will even fit you. This is from Italy and the sizes are different. So show me your body.’
(This is a quote. I swear this is a quote. I have witnesses.)

My friend was startled; stunned even.

The woman stared at her (oh and may I add that this was in a busy shop and this was in front of everyone in it) and repeated ‘Show me your body. Show me the chest. I need to see the size.’

My friend turned red, opened her jacket, and basically flashed her and the entire store with her clothes on.

The woman glanced her over and said ‘No. Your chest is too big. And it will be too short. It won’t fit. Put it back, ok?’

My friend and I stood there flabbergasted. 
We could not get out of that store fast enough – my friend was full of shame about her body, and I was embarrassed to have seen her get treated that way.

And the woman looked at us as if we were morons.
You know why?
Because, in her opinion, she had just done us a favor, and couldn’t understand why we were offended.

She probably felt that she was saving my friend the trouble of getting undressed and becoming disappointed when, in the end, the dress would have been too tight. She felt that if she told us right away, my friend would have saved some time and energy by not having to try it on in the first place.

So, who was right? Was my friend right to be offended at her directness? Was the owner right to have told us in this way, to save us the trouble of disappointment?

Both are right, I think.
But one feels better than the other.

She meant well. 
My friend meant well.

But to me, the bottom line is this. There’s directness and there’s politeness when it comes to customer service. 
If she had said something like ‘Well, since these are Italian sizes, to save you some time, what size dress/shirt do you normally wear? Then I can tell you if this would fit you.’

This would have been the same message but in a ‘nicer’ package. I’m sure my friend would have just told her her dress size, and would have been happy to have been helped in this way.

How direct are you?

Do you have enough vocabulary to ‘package’ your message in the right way, without coming across as being too direct or even rude? If you work with people, having enough vocabulary to do this is essential. (My Business English Communication Course is a great help if you’d like to work on this.)

Anyway, just wanted to share that with you. Think about the words you use and the impact it could have on people.

I’m going to use a lot of really cool words (#omg)  in my Sunday’s Cool Teenager Workshop on 13.11 in Amsterdam. It’s for kids who want to feel awesome in English. We will work on vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, watch a movie (with worksheets, but don’t tell them) and have a fabulous kid-friendly lunch with a chocolate fountain and so much more. Oh yeah baby!! More info in the flyer below or click here for the scoop. Tickets are going fast and it’s limited to just 20 kids. If they bring their BFF they get 25E off! Finally, I get a chance to give young people a boost in their confidence, too! I am so excited to rock it with them! The zin is in, yo!

Sending you love (and you don’t even have to show me your chest),

Buffi xx