So, in hindsight, maybe I was the asshole.
My job as an English teacher is such a gift. It allows me to see the same people, week after week. Even ones I don’t like.
This particular student – let’s call him Lorenzo – has been a thorn in my side from the start. Here’s a classic snippet of conversation:
“Let’s talk about photography today. What is your favorite picture you’ve ever taken?”
(A massive yawn, followed by protracted silence)
“Lorenzo. Hi. Did you hear me?”
“I don’t like.”
(At this point, I’m harboring a strong sense he’s talking about me. But I struggle on…)
“You don’t like photos in general?”
“Yes. I don’t like.”
This has been going on for months. I’ve raised prices. I’ve moved lessons to 8 o’clock in the morning and 9 o’clock at night. Nothing. Works. I can not get rid of this dude.
Today I employed a different strategy. I’m six months into a breakup, and let’s just say being single is not all it was cracked up to be.
“When is the last time you were single?”
“Just before I met Maria,” Lorenzo says, straightening up in his chair. “Sooo, four years ago I suppose.”
“And how long were you single for?”
“I think it was about two-and-a-half years. It was pretty rough. There were the obvious advantages of time for myself and lots of outings with friends, but when you need someone to hold and give you affection, it can seem like you’re the ugliest person in the world. Like you could never meet anyone or be attractive to anyone ever again.”
This wasn’t an answer. This was connection. (From a guy who five minutes before wouldn’t answer the simplest questions.)
What am I trying to say? Next time you find yourself hating the look of someone’s face, try letting down your defenses. Invite them to help you with something. Reveal a weakness. Be a human being. We’ve got enough robots working to steal your next job.