“Curb Your Tongue, Knave!”

This past week I taught myself a lesson in chivalry, and maybe by sharing my story, I’ll give others a chance to escape the uncomfortable situation I put myself in.

It was Friday evening, and several of the salespeople from my department met at El Torito’s for happy hour. There are about twenty of us in the department, and each of us tends to have our own approach to making sales calls. One guy named Jerry, who joined the staff about two months ago, is the stereotypical “used car salesman” – always using high-pressure techniques to close his sales. And, while he is a pretty effective sales rep, his technique does tend to annoy those of us who have to sit in the office and listen to him “break the ice” by telling the same stale jokes on the phone for eight hours a day.

So, we were all mingling at happy hour, and we were drinking margaritas and talking about things in the office and drinking more margaritas, and I started making fun of Jerry’s “slick” sales approach in a less-than-subtle manner. Within a couple of minutes I had everyone at the table chuckling at my witty impersonation of Jerry wheeling-and-dealing with a potential customer. We were all having so much fun that I refused to quiet down even when I noticed a sour-looking woman at the next table glaring at us for being so loud.

Within a few minutes the sourpuss got up and moved to another table, and that’s when one of the other salespeople whispered in my ear, “You might want to keep your voice down. That was Jerry’s wife sitting at the next table.”

Several people had invited their spouses to join us, but I hadn’t thought about the fact that I didn’t know what Jerry’s wife looked like. I felt like a total moron for being needlessly critical and demeaning of someone who had never done me any harm.

Had there been a real knight in shining armor in that restaurant, I’m sure he would have come to our table and said, “Curb your tongue, knave!” or something equally gallant. Instead, I learned that words can be painful weapons, and when I realized how I was being perceived by the people around me, I was appalled. It was a reminder of the responsibility we all have to use our words with respect and restraint at all times.

Tina Dansen, California

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