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A lesson from the waitress that I didn’t tip

I remember going to a late night family diner with a friend at the age of 18.

After we ate, we paid our bill and left.

As we approached the car, the young waitress who served us came running out of the restaurant and, with a completely exasperated look on her face, asked “was my service THAT bad? Come on, guys. You left me NO TIP. Really?”

I was shocked and embarrassed. Although there was a part of me that felt a bit defensive, I was more moved by the fact that she looked like she wanted to cry. This poor girl was having a horrible day and I was probably the cause of it.

Feeling like a complete jerk, I pulled a $10 bill out of my wallet and handed it to her. I apologized and we left.

Here’s the real clincher:

I, honestly, didn’t know any better. Yes, you read that correctly. That was the first time in my life that I tipped a server because prior to that moment I didn’t know you tipped servers. Seriously? Seriously. At age 18? At age 18.

I should have known better, but I didn’t.

Here’s today’s two cents:

One of the most common causes of relationship conflicts, is our refusal to take solution-creating action steps because of our beliefs regarding how someone else SHOULD have handled a situation.

We refuse to tell others how we feel because we think they should already know.

We refuse to confront a problem because we believe the problem should not be a problem in the first place.

We refuse to give people a second chance because we believe they should have known better.

All too often, what we think other people should know is nothing more than a set of culturally relative values that are obvious to us only because of our unique background experiences.

People with different background experiences have an entirely different set of practices that are obvious to them.

Our insistence on judging people according to our ideas of how they SHOULD be, makes it difficult for us to communicate with them in a manner that changes the way things ACTUALLY are.

Don’t expect everyone to think like you think, even if you think your way of thinking is the right way to think.

Deal with the people in your life as they actually are instead of dismissing them because they don’t behave as you feel they should.

That waitress changed my life for the better AND she got what she wanted simply because she honestly expressed how she felt.

Ever since that moment, I have learned to always second guess myself when I feel tempted to take things personally or judge someone for “being a jerk.” I choose to remember how much hurt I caused simply by not knowing what others thought I should’ve known. That one experience taught me to be open to the possibility that the “obvious” standards of judgement I’m using, may be completely foreign to the person I’m judging.

If you have something to say, just say it. If there’s a result you want, just go for it. But don’t make assumptions about what other people should know.

Well, I guess you’re free to make those kinds of assumptions if you wish. But hopefully my story will make you think twice.


T.K. Coleman

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Hey T.K., Great post! I agree, it’s best not to make assumptions about what other people should know if we are to have clear and effective communication with them. And I think it goes even deeper than cultural background. I think it goes back to one’s family experiences, whether you had a family, what the make up was, what the culture of the family was like and our particular experiences in our families. Even if we are from the same ethnic cultural background, we still should not make those assumptions. Even within the same family, everyone had their own experience. I think we must keep even that in mind in our communications and not expect others to know, think or feel what we know, think or feel. I think this world would be a much more peaceful place if each person gave every other person this consideration as well as allowing differences in perspective and beliefs to be all right!!
    Thanks again for making me think, T.K.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Audrey. You make very good points. Even within cultures and families, we can sometimes be worlds apart in our assumptions about the world. Life has been sending me many lessons to remind of the importance of being merciful and compassionate towards others in the same way I would want them to be merciful and compassionate towards me. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and for making ME think, Audrey.


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