Why You Should Be Less Demanding


Do you bring your own bags to the grocery store? If so, have you ever felt that the guys/gals doing the bagging secretly hate using your bags? Am I the ONLY one with a hyperactive imagination?

I don't know how I developed this impression, but unless I'm at Whole Foods (where not bringing your own bag is met with the subtle and opposite,"you must not care about the earth" disdain), I always felt the undercurrent of annoyance.

This weekend, I finally figured why I feel this way. My clue was  the torrent of questions streaming from the bag person's mouth. Rather than the simple, "Paper or Plastic?" I have to field 1,000 questions...

  • Do you want your milk in the bag?  Sure.
  • Can I put cold items with boxes? Yup.
  • Do you need the shampoo wrapped separately from the food products?   Nope.
  • Can I fill the bag to the top? If you'd like.
  • Do you need the bags to be light or is heavier o.k.? Either works.
  • Do you have a special use for this bag (holding up a differently shaped bag)? Um, no, but most people use it for my eggs.

On and on it goes. I get tired answering the questions they must get tired asking. When I imagine the constant information gathering and adjustment over HOW TO BAG GROCERIES , the low-grade annoyance has to be real.

This weekend, I finally asked the cashier and bag packer the question on my mind, "Are people so opinionated about how you bag their groceries that you feel like you have to ask all of these questions?"

Their response was like opening a fire hydrant; out poured story after story of demanding shoppers. I heard about the lady who spaces her groceries on the belt with a bag in between to indicate exactly what she wants in each bag.  Then there's the person who only lets one particular person bag her goods - she won't let anyone else touch her food. There's a man who points out each item and gives play-by-play packing instruction and another man who came back to complain about the shampoo being in with the food (thus question #3 above!).

"It seems like everyone wants to teach us how to do the job better."

Ouch. I'm guessing none of the individuals buying groceries intend to be mean, but their response to people serving them comes across that way. I rolled my eyes and felt more than a tad smug that I'm so easy-going with the personnel at my store. Then I remembered how militaristic I am with my kids as they do the unloading, and I couldn't stay smug long.

No. I undoubtedly have my own version of the "do it my way" attitude, and, as it seeps out into other areas of life, it comes across equally unattractive.

I may not be opinionated about how my groceries are packed (just don't smash the eggs or bread or bananas, or... hmmm...), but I definitely have thoughts on how the police officer is directing traffic. I also think my kids should make the bed "just so," and I'd appreciate it if my husband would "UN" ball his socks before throwing them in the hamper (he says they don't throw well unfurled...) and  - and - and.

I don't have to look far to figure out I have my own laundry list of demands.

What's so bad about being demanding? Demanding people win often and get their way much of the time. They probably have a more organized life and get more for their buck. Unfortunately, whether you're a customer, a spouse, a co-worker, or a friend, when there's a spirit of demandingness, you lose one thing: relationships.

No one wants to hang out with someone who always has to win. In fact, even if you mostly have to win, you're probably wearing people out. Showing annoyance inspires no one - ever.  In fact, it's patience, kindness, and understanding that emboldens others.

I don't know about you, but I want relationships to matter most, not whether my demands are met "just so."