“Okay, Karen”

Karen is not new. I have been dealing with Karen working with the public since as long as I can remember. My first Karen I can recall was when I was just 15 years old. I was working for at a fast food restaurant (my first ever taxable job, how exciting) This particular restaurant was formerly a Dairy Queen that had been purchased by a family on the small island I grew up on outside of Seattle, Washington. Since this was a small-family-owned restaurant, the owners decided they would charge credit card purchasers an additional .25 when they chose to use a credit card instead of cash. This was a pretty common occurrence in the early 2000’s. I remember I was working the drive-thru in the middle of the day, a time I should have been in school but I took an alternative route to high school taking college courses and independent studies. A man came through the drive-thru. I let him know about the .25 fee upon payment. This man yelled at me, a 15-year-old girl working a drive through during school hours. He informed me that he worked for Visa and what I was doing was illegal. This man did not ask for a manager, he did not ask that I not charge him the .25, he simply wanted me to know what he thought. 

As I grew up and learned and evolved as a person, I learned more and more about how people interact. I learned what Karen craves. Karen wants to be heard. 

I still remember like it was yesterday having the first shoe thrown at me when I worked at Nordstrom. This Karen was on drugs I think, but nevertheless, she was a Karen. Nordstrom is well known for its loose return policies, and when Karen(s) do not get their way immediately, watch out! I remember we used to move sharp objects like scissors and letter openers out of reach of customers in fear of a Karen in dire need of a good listener.  

What is a Karen? October 21, 2020 Urban Dictionary defines Karen as: Middle aged woman, typically blonde, makes solutions to others' problems an inconvenience to her although she isn't even remotely affected..  I think everyone has a little Karen in them. Maybe you are having a bad day, maybe someone cut you off right before you turned into the parking lot. I think it is important to realize, that no matter how hard it is to believe, that even a Karen has feelings. 

In 2020 a study showed that individuals who were good listeners were considered good communicators. My husband is a very quiet man. He is a great listener. You would have to be to be married to me! I do not, however, think he is a very good communicator. Sorry, Honey! I do understand when you take the time to listen and really take in what is being said, you will always have a better understanding of the person in front of you. 

After 14 years of working directly with the public (yes, even during Covid) I have learned the best way to combat a Karen. Shut up and listen. She doesn’t want a resolution, she doesn’t need you to fix anything, she doesn’t really want to speak to the manager. What you need to do is let Karen be heard. Karen just wants someone to listen. Karen might not  have a husband who is going to listen to her when he gets home tonight after working all day. Karen may not have a mother that will help her navigate life. Karen could be lacking any friends or family who care enough to listen to her opinion or complaints about the time the line took at the store. Remember, Karen is a person with feelings and emotions, just like you and I.  So next time you come in contact with a Karen, shut up, listen and smile, because you might be the only person who does. 


Kaitlin Scarlett Culp, the managing partner of Xanthus Communications, is based in Denver.  


Katie Culp

Kaitlin Scarlett Culp has over a decade in sales and marketing experience, working with large national businesses ranging from Nordstrom and Life Time Fitness to independent startups and franchises in the Health and Wellness sectors. Kaitlin's drive and passion for a full range of industries and professional services pair perfectly with her knowledge, skills and experience in communication.



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