I was waiting in line at the Post Office yesterday, when I heard loud voices on the other side of the glass doors. Someone was angry and expressing it in a loud voice that demanded attention.
Everyone standing in line raised their eyebrows or shook their heads. Suddenly, the glass doors flew opened and a young man stormed inside and demanded to see the supervisor.
Sally (OK, so I know her name…I am in there a lot) said in her most professional voice,
“I’m sorry sir. But you were already speaking to the supervisor.”
Silence for half a heartbeat.
Instead of beating a hasty retreat, Angry Man decided to notch it up one step further.
“Then I want to see his supervisor!”
To her credit, Sally retained her poise. Everyone else in line was slightly appalled by Angry Man, but of course, no one said anything. As Sally left her customer to get the supervisor’s supervisor, Angry Man glanced at the rest of us. He didn’t received the sympathy he thought he deserved so he stormed out of the room, slamming the glass doors.
I happened to get Sally when it was my turn. I complimented her on keeping her composure in the face of such anger, and she shrugged her shoulders.
“All in a day’s work,” she said.
I found myself in the same Post Office the next day, mailing another package. This time, it was a young woman at Sally’s station who grew visibly upset as Sally patiently explained the procedure for registered letters. Angry Woman shouted something in another language, slammed the glass doors (they apparently take a lot of abuse), then abruptly turned around and came back inside, demanding to see the supervisor.
Another public display of rage.
I couldn’t believe it – was this a pattern at this particular Post Office or was something else going on?
I began asking friends and family if they noticed an increase in these types of incidents – where normal, rational people allow their emotions to overrule their reason.
The answer was a resounding “YES!”
While this very informal survey of a very small group of people is not scientific or regimented, I do believe that people have become disconnected to others, but more importantly, to themselves.
Disconnection breeds contempt and judgment. When you see another person as separate and apart from you, your ego has space to scream, “I have been wronged!” and that, my friends, is where Angry Man and Angry Woman made their mistake.
They missed an opportunity to choose differently.
There is a moment…between the choice of “being-right-at-all-costs” and passively accepting the situation.
A heartbeat in time before the decision is made to rail and rage. A drop in the eternal cosmos where you are presented with a choice of how to respond. Not react.
Reaction is charged with emotional turmoil. It is fueled by strong feelings that prompt people to say and do things that they regret later, when the emotional tsunami has cleared. Reaction is usually based on a triggered, habitual response. No thinking is required – just re-action.
Response is thoughtful and purposeful. Instead of allowing the ego to stir up the emotions, response is connected to your values, your mission and yourself. Response is the reflection of who-you-are, rather than the intense “how-dare-they” reaction.
How do you respond instead of react? My Post Office friend, Sally, has a great attitude. She is harangued every day by people who bring their frustrations with them, along with their letters. She has to deal with different languages, different rules to mail packages to different countries, and difficult people.
And she does it with easy grace and calm.
After watching Sally handle these customers, I realized her technique.
She did not take the customer’s barrage personally and she always responded with kindness.
Instead of fueling the reaction with her own emotional reaction, she used a kind tone and words to bring the person off the emotional cliff.
The great news is that it works. Angry Man and Angry Woman both felt like their complaints were heard and they both came in later and apologized to Sally.
I can’t speak for either of the Angry People, but I do know personally that when I choose to respond instead of react, I stay peaceful. My peace of mind remains intact and I am calm, clear and focused. The situation usually resolves, just like it would if I had chosen “how-dare-you,” but with less upset, turmoil and anger. If it doesn’t resolve to my satisfaction, it was not worth losing my peace of mind by reacting with rage.
How do I make that choice – to respond instead of react? It’s simple.
When I feel that rush of emotion and know that I could follow that siren call, I close my eyes and breathe.
Stopping the visual information helps me find my peace of mind. Breathing slows down the physical adrenaline rush that is taking place in my body. Emotions do not take over my rational side and I am able to choose how I want to respond.
Or as a friend of my mine loves to say, “Is this worth losing my peace of mind?”
If you are on the reception side of customer rage, try kindness. And know that the anger is not directed at you personally. If you are the person about to unleash your fury at a perceived mistreatment, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Your peace of mind is worth it.
A successful attorney for 23 years, she moved away from the practice of law to discover how to become the next, greatest version of herself.
She is passionate about teaching others how to dance with life.
Through her books, newsletters, radio show and blog posts, Kathryn shares the beauty, joy and love that are by-products of Heart Dancing.