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Let's Stop Being Hard on Others
AND START CUTTING PEOPLE SOME NEEDED SLACK
What did you do on New Year’s Eve? Hopefully, you spent it with your favorite beverage celebrating with people you cherish. While I was enjoying time with my family, I was also doing wind sprints through the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Like thousands of other people, my flight was not on time which isn’t unfamiliar to me. I’ve logged a couple million miles on airplanes in my life, so having flights delayed, rerouted, or cancelled is a common occurrence I’ve learned to accept.
Running through the airport, I was reminded again of a very important lesson—I’m not 24 anymore. As I neared the gate gasping for air, I could see my plane. But I could also see the gate agent shut the boarding door because we were 30 seconds too late.
As a seasoned frequent flyer, I knew shouting, crying, and complaining wasn’t going to get us on that plane. I also knew the Delta employee had no control over the situation. She had a job to do which was to make sure that flight left on time.
Nonetheless, I smiled and kindly appealed to her sense of holiday cheer hoping for some grace. After all, I have witnessed airport miracles when planes were held for me. But I wasn’t holding my breath—which I still hadn’t gotten back by the way.
After a few moments, the captain came off the plane to see why he hadn’t been given the green light to push back. I asked for a moment of his time and explained our situation. After listening politely, he told the lady, “I’ll take the delay. Put it on me.”
In case you don’t know, that’s a big deal for a pilot. Taking a delay goes against their record. I knew the significance of his decision, so I shook his hand and thanked him. Keep in mind the flight was only delayed about 13 minutes—more on that later.
When we boarded the plane, the faces of the passengers were less than friendly—more like annoyed. I just smiled and waved to them and said, “Sorry everyone.” Did they care? I don’t know. But I doubt it. They were inconvenienced on New Year’s Eve.
The only inconvenience for me in getting to the gate late was not being able to use the bathroom—which felt urgent—but I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have heard another passenger’s not-so-polite telephone conversation when we landed.
“Yeh, we were supposed to land at 10:15pm, but they let some people board late. Irritating!” I’ve already told you we were only 13 minutes behind schedule. But I didn’t tell you this was the final leg of everyone’s flight. No one had another plane to catch.
As soon as this gentleman uttered those words, I told my daughter-in-law, “I know the next topic of my blog and podcast.” The reason I was so bothered by his conversation was because he had zero empathy—not because my bladder was still full.
Most people who have flown have experienced flight days. Most people have had shitty days when nothing seemed to go right. Most people have had seasons of life when everything that could go wrong did and nothing fell into their timeframe.
This isn’t a post about airplane travel and annoyed passengers. My point is the blatant lack of disregard for the needs of others. When we are having bad days, we want others to understand. And when our world is coming apart, we want compassion.
Here’s the problem from my point of view. It’s been said, “We judge ourselves by our motives, but we judge others by their behaviors.” In other words, we’re unwilling to give others the benefit of the doubt despite not knowing their story.
I try to live by the premise that everyone I encounter is doing the best they can at any particular time in their life. Even the well-intentioned but poor decisions people make are affected by the circumstances of the moment or the conditioning of their past.
Is that an excuse? Not at all. But if I’m even 50% correct, it might be worth remembering. Because the same is true for us all. Sometimes due to situations beyond our control, our behaviors might inaccurately reflect our motives. too.
Just maybe our world would be a better place if we’d all pause a moment before getting pissed off and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Would it be so hard to stop and remember the times in our lives we’d like a do-over for being a dumbass?
So next time someone cuts you off or flips you off—figuratively or literally—consider what you don’t know about their story. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They might be doing their best and making the only decision they know how.
Let’s stop being hard on others and start cutting people some needed slack. The consequences of their choices will catch up with them. In the meantime, your empathy might be the only good thing they experience as they catch their breath.
If you need help with the subject matter of this blog for your personal or professional life, contact me to discuss one-on-one consulting options. I will reply personally. —T.