Last year I read a book called, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything.
As suggested by the title, the contents of the book contain themes around something that has been in vogue in my world in the last year: “taking responsibility.” I say “in the last year” because it’s not something I really held in great quantity before.
I, like most human beings, often seem to find that the path of least resistance is a way of life; it is easy to blame other people, easy to skip easy tasks that could make a cumulatively compounding difference to your life, and easy to come up with excuses for just about any situation. Often, these reactions are completely justifiable…with logic.
So what’s the problem?
Well, we justify our actions with logic, but our actions are initiated by emotion! Here’s an example.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to have committed this error of judgement, but it might surprise you that I have missed the odd tram, bus, train, plane (yes, aeroplane). And in the heat of the realisation that I’ve cocked up (albeit mostly for pretty minimal consequences, in the grand scheme of things), after a few expletives aimed directly outward from my being, either towards the train conductor or the train itself (like WTAF), it often took me hours to return to normal.
Imagine walking past me an hour later, innocently in the supermarket, with my anger still visibly smeared across my face? Or worse still, on the road?!
What are the impacts on others of my decisions?
All this points to is that I have tried to correct this behaviour and tried to be more outward-focused and not so inward-centric. As a self-interested human, that is a lot harder than it seems…
Imagine for a second you could make no excuses for your outcomes and that all the resultant actions in your life are of your doing? Well, that’s actually true! Ever been in a supermarket queue that isn’t moving fast because some brain surgeon can’t find his debit card or is arguing with the checkout person over the price of an item? Well, remember, you chose that particular queue…
And ever been sitting in traffic and someone cuts you off or is simply being a dickhead on the road? Now, I am sure for the most of us rational beings, our first thought is how we would want to throw a chair in their face or use their head as a golf ball. Ok, well, consider this…what if they were rushing their wife to the hospital as she was about to give birth? Or their child had just been bitten by a redback spider on his left nut? I’m sure you’d forgive them then.
The key is to give people the benefit of the doubt as you never know what they’re going through. The worst thing that could happen is that you take hold of that anger and then ‘pay it forward’ to an innocent victim.
It’s the little things…
So now that you are prepared to be more empathetic to others, and recognising the impact it can have on their day, how about putting it into practice?
It can be a simple thing like cheering up someone that you don’t know. For example, as we interact with many people on a daily basis, why don’t you ask them how their day is going and talk about something other than the weather? For all you know, they could have just broken up with their partner or been told by their boss they’re useless or surplus to requirements. You make what you would think to be an innocuous comment like, “Thanks so much, you’ve been really helpful!” and their face lights up like a brake light!
I always find it funny how people in customer-facing roles seem perplexed when I respond to their question of, “Hi, how are you?” with, “Great thanks! How has your day been today?” when all they are meaning is, “Hi, what’s your order?” They are genuinely confused and the brief interaction is almost a hindrance to the main business, but when given the opportunity, you hear and learn all sorts of things about them. And to top it off, they feel like you are some sort of unicorn that has fallen out of the sky and actually asked them how the bloody hell they really are, and then…hold me back…actually listened!
Other things I try to do are stacking my plates and mug in a coffee shop to make the job of the person cleaning your table a little easier, or returning my pint glass to the bar when leaving a venue (assuming it’s before 10pm). If you are that waiter or bartender, how would you feel knowing that there are actually good people out there?
So my parting thought is this: nurses decide whether to apply medication orally or anally. So be nice to everyone, because remember, you never know what others are going through and how your ‘insignificant’ decisions might end up being ‘significant’.