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I was at the food court in a mall during the busy lunch hour when the gentleman behind the counter slid my order to me and with a very heavy foreign accent said “ you have a hairy goat”.  Over the din of multiple conversations, trays banging on tables and general mall cacophony, I said “pardon me?”

He smiled at me and said “you’re a hairy goat”. Not really adding clarity to the conversational exchange. I’m not sure how to respond and being conscious of the line-up behind me, I smile, nod, pick up my tray and walk away with my companion trailing behind me.

My companion said, “didn’t you get that -  he said, you have pretty hair with your coat”. A compliment on the color I was wearing.  A very nice, unsolicited compliment that I had entirely missed.

I wonder how much we miss as we smile, nod and walk away when we don’t understand what the other person is saying.   One of my favourite authors has it right;

“If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here's to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.” 
― Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieAmericanah


 


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