You’ve taken a wrong turn at the museum and ended up in a gallery that’s closed to the public. A security guard approaches.
“Can I help you?” he asks.
That’s not what he really means. He’s not actually offering to help you trespass. He’s telling you that you’re not supposed be there, and that he’s going to make sure you leave.
He’s saying, in fact, just the opposite of “Can I help you?”
What he’s saying is “I’m going to stop you.”
I love this kind of Coded Language — where you say one thing but you and the person you’re addressing both know you mean just the opposite.
I work at a public library, and while most of our patrons are wonderful people, a few of them can become downright rude if they don’t get what they want.
No matter how annoying or even abusive they are, we, as public servants, cannot respond in kind. We must remain pleasant, courteous and respectful, even as they’re screaming insults at us.
We’re thinking “How dare you? I hate you! Drop dead!” But the worst we can say to them is, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
I always found this hard to endure. Enormously frustrating. Close to intolerable. But then I learned the Magic Phrase, which I will now pass along to you. If you work with the public, you’ll find it comes in very handy.Read the full article @ Medium