Don’t Get Mad, Get Curious
J, a good friend from mine was at the post office earlier in the day and was waiting in the line. She realized that she needed some form, so she walked over to the table just a few feet away to complete the form before returning to her seat in the line. The person behind her in line, however, was already in her place , and appeared to be unwilling to budge. J started to assert her claim that she "was on line," but was caught, acknowledging, "No, those are the rules - step out of line, lose your place." As he heard this, the man's attitude changed, and the man offered to let her back ahead of him. J refused, but once they reached the top of the queue, he demanded that she go over him. They ended up at the neighboring windows. Visit:- Once the man was finished with his work when he was done, he turned his attention to J and saidwith a smile, "Have a nice day." The resultwas that what could have turned out to be a negative exchange became an informal exchange. Everyone has their own rules - an extensive and often unconscious, set of beliefs and expectations about how people ought to behaving - designed to establish some sense of control in our hectic, busy lives. For me, in a city that is crowded like New York where countless encounters with strangers is the normal, the myriad of potentially conflicting "rules" is all too evident, in the subway, on the sidewalk and in the theater... In an effort to reach a consensus, New York magazine's Urban Etiquette Handbook outlined modern-day protocol for some of the most threatening social situations, including the use of a Blackberry/cell phone/iPod Etiquette for subways (yikes, who knew eyelash curling was a bad idea?!) And breaking up with your hairstylist. However, for the majority of cases you shouldn't suppose that there's a widespread understanding and even less consensus on exactly what "rules" are. Additionally, they shift in accordance with the situation. (As explained within the Urban Handbook, holding the doors open of the train for someone to take a seat is not an option unless, ofcourse you're the one who is rushing to catch an opportunity to get on the train.) The guidelines that each of us has vis a vis the individuals we have come to know and care about are more complicated and variable. Did they make contact regularly enough, say the right words, put aside the appropriate amount on the proper gift, treat our friends properly, and demonstrate their respect and love the way the way they're "supposed" to? Most of us never really share with others what our individual rules, instead we assume that everyone else adheres to the same rules of conduct. However, given our various social, educational, and cultural backgrounds, as well as unique life experiences how can we have all developed the same set of rules? Even members of the same families have distinct references and sensitivities and therefore react differently under the same conditions. A person may think that the home-cooked dinner is the perfect birthday meal and another person might believe anything less than a seven-course meal at a restaurant is an insult to the ego. Thus, expecting people to understand and then follow your guidelines won't lead to the anxiety-free existence you're trying to create. In fact, this vigilant enforcement could only add to the stress and anger. So here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the maze of "unruly" behavior: Find out more. The first rule of guidelines is to not be a victim. Most of the time it's not about you. People, especially strangers, don't seem to be reacting to your actions specifically . How could they possibly be aware of you? They are instead acting in accordance with their personal beliefs, frustrations and fears or could have a bad day. Before you lose your cool and go on the offensive, why not relax and ask yourself what rule or notion you bring to the situation. Are you saying "How dare he think his time is more valuable than mine!" Or "People always take advantage of me--they must think I'm a push-over." You can then ask "Is it really true? How do I know that he thinks his time is more valuable than mine?" Take a moment to ponder why the other person did what they did, as well... Find a way to be creative. See if you can come up with variety of possible explanations. Perhaps the man who was at the post office in the anecdote above had had a prior incident with people who were rudely pushing ahead of him when they were waiting in line Maybe he was from a family of eight and was taught to be a fighter for his position; or perhaps the man was a busy small-business proprietor who thought that he had more important tasks to accomplish than mailing his own packages - whatever the reason, he was bound by one of his own rules that were what prompted the initial reaction. With a little curiosity and creativity, you are able to then start with...

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