The problem is, there's no nice way to tell someone they're being obnoxious, but sometimes you really need to do it anyway.
I don't want to offend my clients. Especially not the ones I like. I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable about coming to her nail appointment, but if I can hear you popping, snapping, and chomping your gum when you're sitting 10 feet away from me in the next room, you can bet I'm not going to put up with it when you're seated 18 inches away from me in my chair.
Likewise you need to know that you can live without your cell phone, your kids, your iPod, your pets, and your Nintendo DS for an hour or so. Believe me, I see it all the time. It hasn't killed any of my other clients, it won't kill you.
Problem is — since moms don't teach their kids these things anymore and teachers aren't allowed to — it often comes as a HUGE surprise to the innocent folks who book appointments with me when I tell them to spit out their gum.
A lot of people end up feeling really bad and genuinely don't realize that they chew like cows. A guilty look crosses their face, they giggle and apologize, then spit their gum out. I do their nails and life goes on and we get along swell. But every so often someone takes offense. And then I have to figure out how to react.
On one hand, I want my clients to enjoy their time with me. I want them to feel comfortable and welcome and I don't mean to make anyone defensive. On the other hand I can't believe that people really think that it's OK to go out in public without bringing their manners with them and when it gets pointed out that they are being obnoxious, I can't believe they think that I am out of line for mentioning it.
Yeah, getting called out stings for a bit. But in the long run, wouldn't you rather know that your nail lady, hairstylist, doctor, teacher, waitress, whoever, is annoyed beyond reason by whatever it is you do that annoys them? Wouldn't you rather know that when you go to your doctor’s appointments you should put away your cell phone? Or that if you are dragging your kid to your hair appointment he should play his DS with the volume turned off? Or that your nail lady doesn't want you popping your gum in her ear. Wouldn't you rather know these things? Or do people really want to go on about their self-involved little lives acting as though no one else on earth matters?
I, personally, would rather know. I don't want to tick off my service professionals. I want to be welcome at each business I patronize. I want the people that I interact with to like me and look forward to seeing me and doing business with me. So it's really in both of our best interests if they have the chutzpah to tell me to spit out my gum, or leave Fluffy at home (btw, neither of our dogs is named “Fluffy"), or that my perfume makes them break out in hives and want to vomit. It might be embarrassing for a moment, but at least I know not to do it in the future.
Of course, it also gives me an opportunity to decide if I think that service provider is crazy. How important is it that I not offend or annoy that person? Do I really care that much? Maybe I'd rather push Fluffy around in a little stroller than get my bikini wax at that salon? If that's the case, maybe I'd like to have this information so I can find a salon that will welcome Fluffy and his stroller.
It's a rough line to walk. All I can do is ask myself if I would prefer to know that I am annoying someone, and then act accordingly when choosing whether or not to say something to someone else. Unfortunately, it seems all too often that I'm the only one who cares about being annoying.