The Right Mental Attitude
An old Ann Landers column contains some excellent advice from one of her readers. This lady said that at one time she assumed that a wealthy woman whom she only knew slightly was an arrogant snob because she rarely spoke and never smiled. She also had the feeling that the woman in the supermarket with the whining children was a lousy mother. "Then," she said, "one day I stood in line at the grocery store. I noticed that the clerk never smiled at the customers and ignored light conversation." She said, "I was tempted to tell her what I thought of her sour attitude when the elderly woman in front of me took a different approach. She said, 'Honey, you look like you're having a bad day.' The clerk looked up with the saddest eyes I've ever seen and said, 'My husband lost his job yesterday and I just found out I am pregnant.' The lady patted her hand and said, 'Dear, things will work out.'
"When it was my turn," she said, "the clerk had tears in her eyes, but she smiled, and I felt ashamed of myself for being so intolerant." Then the lesson she teaches is significant. She said, "That instant made me realize that people usually aren't rude because they're mean and want to make my life miserable. They are unpleasant because they have problems on their mind and a heavy heart. My entire outlook changed that day, and I am now much more compassionate." She said, "I now assume the frowning woman might be worried about the results of a biopsy. The rude young driver could be on his way to the emergency room to meet an injured relative, and the distracted mother with the screaming child in the supermarket may need my smile and a kind word. Perhaps the only one she will get all day." This reader said, "This change in my attitude has made those around me happier, but the greatest benefit is mine. I am less angry and more serene, and I like myself better than I used to."
Sometimes people need some empathy, somebody to say, "Is there anything I can do?" or, "I'm sorry things are not going your way." Relationships are built on putting yourself in the other person's position and trying to relate; as the old Indian adage says, "You won't know another person until you've walked in his moccasins at least one day." Try to imagine how he or she must feel, and you will be able to deal with them more effectively and get along with them far better - and feel better about yourself in the process.