When tragedy strikes and I'm annoyed.

Have you ever been annoyed by someone else’s tragedy? Before you answer, see if any of these scenarios ring a bell.

  • You’re late and the trains are closed because someone jumped on the tracks.
  • Your computer is busted and the only repair shop that can fix it, can’t get to it for a week, the repair guy’s wife has cancer and he’s gotta watch the kids.
  • Your team has a deadline which is coming up and one of them gets in an accident so you all have to work overtime.
  • You’ve got a major presentation that could really up your career, and your kids all get the flu in staggering intervals and you can’t deliver the presentation.

Let’s admit it, as much as we want to say ‘I would never get annoyed when others are suffering’, the truth is, at some point in our lives, we do.

So, I’ll go first with my confession. Scenario two, the computer one happened to me this past year. As the guy was explaining to me why I would be without my computer for at least 2 weeks, I offered my sympathies for the repair man, but internally, I struggled with being annoyed. As if this was staged just to screw with my life and my plans. Being completely ashamed of myself for thinking that, I concluded that I was a terrible person and needed to rethink my priorities.

I asked a few questions to the front desk guy about the repair man, to see if he had support  for himself and his kids, friends and/or family and the prognosis of his wife. I choose to get out of my selfish stupid spiral and humanize the situation. Fortunately, it sounded like he had a good support network and the strand of cancer seemed pretty treatable. I left feeling compassion for the repair guy, and realized, not having my computer for 2 weeks was a bummer, but something I could navigate. I didn’t want to cause anymore stress or hardship for the repair office as they are all humans doing the best they can.

Having an outward mindset is treating ‘others’ as people. Others are those you consider vehicles to getting something done, annoyances who are in your way, or irrelevancies who you ignore because they don’t concern you or help you in anyway. Each of us can easily place anyone in these categories depending on our situation.

Going back to my story, all of those thoughts and feelings happened in like seconds. Switching gears and being able to ask questions, be curious and caring was a choice because I was feeling annoyed and ‘put out’.  “What about me and my needs?” kind of entitlement self talk, as if I am the only one that matters in this situation.

So lesson learned, to practice an outward mindset involves choosing to act contrary to how I might be feeling. By stepping out of my feelings of frustration and asking questions, I learned more about the ‘other’ and my feelings changed and a wave of compassion and acceptance washed over me. I now wanted to help him and his family!

It’s not being disingenuous or hypocritical to act contrary to our feelings, it’s an act of maturity, being self aware to know what’s going on internally and changing your internal dialogue to a different narrative. A narrative that removes you from the center and allows you to see your circumstances in a broader more inclusive story of our shared humanity.