As Hard as it is, Don't be Mad at Someone Who's Rude to You (*Within Reason*)
We've all experienced it, the random person who you've never met before in public who apparently has a lifelong vendetta against you that you were unaware of. Having worked retail in the past for many years, the rudeness of strangers has now become something of war stories to look back on and exchange laughs about with my other retail traumatized friends. But the truth is, it's everywhere. It's on the subways, it's at our bus stops, it's while you're driving around the streets or looking for parking; there seems to be no shortage of people seemingly going out of their way to look for confrontation.
Unfortunately, I'm someone who, in the past, has tended to take things like this to heart. And instead of feeling self righteous, I feel a mix of anger and sadness (damn emotions that you can't control, amiright?) But I always do try to tell myself 'think of the person that did such and such to you 2 years ago, you don't even care about that now, so don't let this bother you, 6 months from now it won't even matter.' The truth is, that can be really hard to do depending on the situation.
Recently, I've come to take on the philosophy that, things are so rarely how they appear on the surface. The random person who says something obnoxious to you could have just had the most stressful day of their life and sadly, took it out on you.
What inspired me to write this was an incident that happened this week, where I was standing on a very empty train. I decided not to sit as I was covered in rain and I only had a few stops to go before getting off. I happened to stand near the door, but left plenty of space for people to walk in and out (again though, this is towards the end of the night, no one is getting on at these stops as it's almost the last stop on the train, and there are only people getting off.) Being a native born NYer, I know train etiquette quite well, and I'd never block a crowded door (stares judging-ly at you.) A woman decided to lean in to me so our faces were just a couple of inches apart, and yell "thank you for blocking the train door" as she walked out. The only reaction I could muster was to sort of do a half smirk-laugh and shake my head, being that I couldn't believe the audacity of someone to yell at a stranger for essentially no reason. A man sitting on the other side of the train made eye contact with me, laughed, and made a comment about how she had plenty of room and that there was no reason for her to do that. I again shook my head and said "some people are just always angry."
The issue, for me, was after I got off the train and I was walking back to my apartment. I was sort of figuratively kicking myself and thinking of all the things I should have said to the woman. Some of them were really horrible. My justification for this was, I didn't do anything wrong, how dare she, she doesn't know me, she doesn't know who I am, she doesn't know she just yelled at a person who is non-confrontational and wouldn't hurt a fly. But then I stopped, the same way that she didn't know my story or what I was going through, I also don't know hers.
Of course, step one is that we all need to be cognoscent of not being rude to anyone, especially someone who's done nothing wrong, but it seems to me that the reverse is also true. When someone has done you wrong, it can be better to not escalate the situation, because in truth, you also don't know what happened to that person that day. Picture this; imagine this woman just had a horrible day at her job, truly horrible, and got bad news from her son, and her husband is suffering from bad health, and she herself hasn't gotten much sleep lately, you get the picture. We've all had those times in our lives where the bad seems to not only be outweighing the good, but piling up so high that there's no good in sight. Now picture she gets on the train and sees a young woman blocking a portion of the doorway, or she goes to the supermarket and a cashier puts her change on the counter instead of in her hand, or she has to wait for a few more seconds to cross the street because someone is walking a bit slowly in front of her. Maybe that was just the final straw. Maybe all of the anger she's been feeling all day, or for weeks, or longer finally just explodes. Perhaps she even feels really sorry about it after the fact, because she knows she wrongfully took it out on someone undeserving. Haven't we all been there?
Of course, this is all within reason. This is not talking about street harassment, or rudeness beyond a limit. But the little seemingly uncontrollable bouts of anger that bubble up in the pit of our stomach at a little thing, that normally wouldn't effect us in the slightest. We should all be a bit more conscious of being kind to one another, but even though it's a hard pill to swallow, we should even try to be kind to those who haven't shown us kindness. You truly never know what someone is going through.
I completely understand the opposite sentiment, that if someone has done you wrong they most definitely don't deserve your kindness, it's almost like rewarding bad behaviors. But I wouldn't be surprised if many of the people having these rude outbursts are going through a troubling time right then, and you showing them kindness could maybe turn their mood around, or at least make them stop and think before they do it again to someone else. Kindness over confrontation, any day.