It’s very easy to judge another. Everyone does it.
On Friday, we went to grab a bite at Wendy’s. Ahead of us, there was an impatient woman, waiting to be served while a confused, older gentleman was trying to order a Papa burger. A&W is across the street.
They were opening another cash register while the woman angrily barked at the man that A&W is across the street and that this is Wendy’s.
Her frustration was loud. I was appalled at her impatience towards this man. The man seemed to be successfully ignoring her.
I’ve seen impatient people not give room for an older person to be a little confused. Honestly, it pisses me off.
If we live to a ripe old age, many of us will be there at some point.
Also, as a caregiver for my mother who is fragile and confused, I try to show compassion and help them in their confusion. To me, getting angry at them is not a proper response. Ever.
We ended up at the gentleman’s cash after he had moved on while the woman was still ordering her food.
When I am angry, I can be sarcastic. I’m not proud of it. It will just pop out of me.
I said to the woman behind the counter, loud enough for the other woman to hear, “I’ll have a Mama burger”.
The cashier said they don’t have Mama burgers. I laughed and said, I’m only joking.
Going to pick up my food, the woman was already ahead of me. She told me she didn’t think I was funny.
She thought I was making fun of the man. (She clearly didn’t understand that the joke was actually directed at her impatience and for barking at the man.)
She told me how awful I probably made the man feel. (I knew that wasn’t possible since he was gone from the area. Only she heard me.)
Frankly, I was caught off guard from her concern for the man. It seemed weird given her behaviors.
Then I asked her why she thought he would feel bad.
She wanted to know how I’d feel if I was a confused 76 year old man and someone made fun of me.
Huh? She knew his age? I asked how she knew this man and she said, “He is my father”.
None of us thought they were together. We all saw a separate person being unkind to an older person, annoyed that another cash had to be opened. We arrived when the exchange was already happening.
I didn’t say any of this to her. That would have been my ego’s need to justify my own bad behaviors. It would only serve to make her feel badly.
As soon as I heard that this was her father, I realized that she wasn’t a bitch, there was a lot more to the underlying story. Her anger was not from impatience, but from fear.
I apologized for my insensitivity to her situation. Profusely.
I asked her if her Dad was OK. Upset she said “We don’t know”. I tried to sound encouraging while she got her food and left.
- I saw her as unkind to an old man.
- She saw me as unkind to her Dad.
- We were both wrong.
I did my best to apologize. Anger is often displaced. This was a good reminder for me.
Triggers from others’ behaviors can cause us to react in unthinking ways. Even the nicest person can make this mistake.
- Her reaction of barking at her Dad for being confused.
- My reaction of judging her for getting upset.
I have been praying for her family to find support since our exchange.
Afterwards, I felt badly that I had added to her pain. When we screw up, if possible, we need to make amends, forgive ourselves and move on.
It would have been easy to allow my ego’s need to prove that I was justified in my behaviors. Instead, I changed my focus to try and gain a better understanding of her position.
Seeking to understand remains the most effective tool in our toolbox of humanity. With family, friends, people we work with, and even with complete strangers.
Let your curiosity be open to the underlying fears. Spread compassion to overtake your ego’s need to be right. You will not regret it.
Have a great day!
Monique works with organizations or people who want to reduce conflict to create a culture of collaboration, engagement and productivity. The most successful leaders are not infallible when faced with someone who “drives them crazy!” Her strategies to empower people to better understand each other and have better outcomes, while having fun, are appreciated by all who meet her. She draws from 30 years of crisis intervention and mental health work, she is a Level II Accredited Trainer for DISC as a Human Behavior Consultant and a Certified NLP Professional Coach. She loves meeting people and getting to know them and their industry. So feel free to reach out.