When I go to someone's home to fix their computer, they often tell me their problems, as well as their computer's problems. Most of the time, I don't comment, or I wish them well as neutrally as possible. Sometimes I celebrate with them. I love learning about marriages and births. I've attended funerals for members of my clients' families. I'm not just a pair of hands that hold screwdrivers or press keys.
But when my clients want an ear for their complaints, I'm just that -- an ear. I don't want to take sides. I don't want to have opinions. And my clients are grown-ups. I figure if they can get themselves into these situations, they are grown-up enough to handle them. They just want to tell their stories. I can listen -- and maybe get an idea for some of my fiction writing.
But the other day, a client referred to a woman she doesn't like as a "black bitch."
I didn't comment at the time because I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say that could be helpful. Things like, "she can't her her color or her gender" would have made my client angry. Or I could have gotten up my dander and said, "please don't use terms like that around me." But that would have just led to her hiring another computer tech -- not changing her ways.
I went home and thought about it. Finally, the answer was so simple -- something I wrote in response to an OS topic about racism. Racism is never personal. I've been hated for being white and female. But if the person really knew me, she'd have specific things about me to hate and my color and gender would not be at the top of her list.
So, the next time I saw this client, I told her the truth -- I'm a grammar buff. I like good solid insults, that are specific and insightful. I told her that I'm sure that the woman she dislikes has some very specific behaviors that are irritating. But I'm also sure that the things my client dislikes about her are not the color of her skin or the fact that she's female.
My client laughed. She agreed -- these are not what she dislikes. Her nemesis is a power-tripping narcissist. Okay. I can get into that. We can all work on being less power tripping and less narcissistic. A good solid personal insult can help us all improve.