Statistically, at least one person on your flight is supposedly that raving, mad lunatic who shrieked at an airport employee. Thando Ndabezitha muses about resolving issues with polite, patient behaviour.
My pet peeve is being kept waiting. I can’t bear it. As I pace up and down, I can feel myself quaking with a quietly increasing rage as I count each passing minute that could’ve been used far more productively doing something else, while the person I wait for tardily makes their way to me.
But while I’m infuriated by others’ tardiness, I’m more understanding of my own, because I perceive my excuses for lateness to be more legitimate – I was there after all when the alarm didn’t go off, when I ran into unexpected traffic, and when I had a wardrobe malfunction.
In short, I operate from the premise that if my intentions are good (if I meant to be on time), but something got in my way, then others will understand that a situation beyond my control occurred. And because I am generally punctual, I may, and should be forgiven for having one bad day.
I think this would qualify as the definition of hypocrisy. Yet how many of us fail to extend the same grace to others that we so easily give to ourselves?
Age and Self-Awareness
These days the kind of self-awareness that comes with getting older sees me take a step back when I’m about to have a strong emotional reaction to a perceived slight or disrespect. Often when I’m about to lose my cool, two thoughts come to mind. The first is: “When did I last eat?”
As with most people, hunger is the cause of a short-temper and irritability. If upon close self-examination, I realise that I am still full, the next thought comes as a reminder in the form of the Talmudic saying, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
Emotional meltdowns are hard to watch. Whether it be a frustrated toddler throwing an epic tantrum, or an adult loudly berating another, it’s simply unpleasant. We perceive ourselves, especially adult humans, to be more logical, more dispassionate and in control of our emotions than children.
It’s a surprise even to those reacting with fury when their anger bursts forth and they foam at the mouth, not to mention general indignity coupled with complete lack of composure.
A recent University of California, Berkeley study cast doubt on the long-held belief that there are only six human emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.
This was revealed with a list of 27 human emotions among which anger does not even feature. One of the findings was that anger is as a result of other emotions, such as contempt and disappointment. Anxiety, fear and horror also feature on this more comprehensive list.
As I read this fascinating research, I kept thinking about the ways in which I try to calm myself down before completely losing my cool. Many times, the things that make me see red are not the things themselves as that ancient Talmudic saying goes.
It is how I perceive the things. And, as a social being, I perceive things according to my conditioning, as the author of Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey wrote.
Let’s be real. Some humans are just plain rude and sloppy. But I’d be willing to wager that those people are an exception to the rule, especially when it comes to the service industry.
So, the next time your blood is about to boil with frustration, remember that in the same way you avoid being difficult, the individual you’re dealing with is probably not being deliberately obtuse or unreasonable.
The reason you may perceive them that way may have nothing to do with them at all, and more to do with the fact that you are anxious, or afraid of losing control.
We all want to live in a kinder, more understanding world. Why not be the one to initiate it?