I was recently approached by a frazzled woman at a train station who was on the verge of tears. With an unsteady, quavering voice and a shaky demeanor, she explained that she’d been approaching strangers for several hours, while looking to collect enough fare to purchase an Amtrak ticket. Her wallet was lost, and she needed to get home in order to avoid spending the night in Manhattan’s Penn Station (which houses a couple of tasty smoothie storefronts, but it’s not exactly an atmosphere for a good night’s sleep).
I did ultimately give her a little bit of money, but what I was really struck by was her overall concern that I would laugh or make fun of her current anxious state. “I’m sure you must think I’m crazy approaching strangers, but I’m just so nervous,” she said. Although she was in a rather desperate situation, which can surely call for communicating with strangers, she was focused on how others would perceive her outreach.
This woman at the train station is certainly not different from you and me. To an extent, we all care what other people think of us. In fact, it permeates every facet of our being, and we typically are not even aware of it. Caring about what others think infiltrates ordinary, everyday aspects of our lives, whether it may be tending to our physical appearance, making certain life choices, or selectively choosing the words we say to those around us.
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