This is a story that’s message has served me well. I heard it in a communications class I took back in college in the late 1970’s and it’s probably the only thing I remember from my college classroom experience that I can truthfully say has made a difference in my life. It’s a fun story to share with clients. It helps them open up their thinking and look at life and their problems from a different perspective. Hope you enjoy it.
One Friday night a group of friends was at a local bar shooting the breeze and letting off some steam after a long workweek. Mary began her usual monotonous bitching about her job as a telemarketing operator. Bill, a co-worker from another department, finally had enough of her whining and suggested that she just quit and get another job. He was tired of hearing the same old same old.
Mary said, “That’s easy for you to say. You’ve got a college degree.”
Flippantly, Bill replied, “So? You’re attractive enough. You could always become a high-class prostitute or something.”
Everyone laughed. Everyone except Mary. She was completely taken aback that Bill would say such a thing. She normally wasn’t thin-skinned, but she knew a backhanded compliment when she heard one. She was tired and had had a bad day, so it didn’t take much for her to take it as an insult. What made matters worse was the way in which the group continued on with callous comments about which corner she should work and how great she would look in fishnet stockings. She began to tear up, not just from hurt feelings but from the frustration that her friends did not seem to understand how unfulfilled she felt in her job.
Another friend, Tom, didn’t want to see a rift develop between his two colleagues, so he told Mary that Bill was only kidding. He suggested that even though Bill’s remark had been insensitive and possibly insulting, she might be able to use his comment as an opportunity. Mary was aghast, but Tom was determined. He pressed on.
“Not everything is what it appears to be,” he said, and explained that in order to use Bill’s insult to her advantage, she just needed to change her perspective. “Why don’t you look at his statement from a positive angle by coming up with three things that you would like about being a prostitute.”
This remark only made Mary more livid. However, the rest of the group had quieted down and was curious about how this might work. So their laughs and less than kind comments turned into genuine support and they all began to prod her until she reluctantly agreed to play along with Tom.
After a good deal of thinking she said, “Well, prostitutes do meet a lot of people. I can’t stand sitting in a cubicle all day.”
Tom was thrilled with her response. “That’s right. So you want a job where you meet a lot of people face-to-face.”
Mary nodded in agreement.
Tom added encouragingly, “Okay, just two more.”
Mary thought for a while and then responded, “Okay, they get to dress up, look pretty and wear the latest fashions. I’d love to have a reason to go shopping for stylish clothes and makeup.”
“So you want a job where it is important to look fashionable and attractive?”
Mary nodded again, only this time with a little more enthusiasm.
“Just one more. I’m sure you can think of something.”
Mary thought and thought. Finally she answered, “Well they do get to set their own hours and rates. I hate having to punch a time clock for an hourly wage.”
“Fabulous,” Tom applauded. “Now, as I hear it, you want a job where you meet a lot of people, can dress up and look fashionable and are able to set your own hours and wage.”
“That sounds about right,” Mary agreed.
Kate, another friend who had been listening and watching from the sidelines, blurted out, “That sounds like a sales job to me. Why don’t you sell cosmetics, or clothes, or be a personal shopper for people? Maybe you could go into the fashion industry. You’d be perfect.”
Mary’s eyes lit up, and she gasped. Instantly she thought of someone she knew who she could talk to about getting into the cosmetics industry. Within one year, Mary had started her own part-time business in the cosmetics and fashion industry. She eventually quit her full-time job and went on to become very successful as a personal shopper. Her success was all due to the fact that she was willing to look at the world through the eyes of being a prostitute, a position she would never have envisioned herself in.