The other night I had a moment of clarity standing at the United Airlines lost baggage help desk. My son had a difficult time getting home from college for the holidays. With snow falling over half the country and a trip that routed him through both Chicago and Denver it didn't come as much of a surprise that his flights were cancelled. Eventually he was able to fly into a different airport, two hours away from home, arriving just before midnight. Of course, as he got off the plane he received a text telling him that his luggage hadn't made it. He texted me, I welcomed him home, and headed straight to the lost baggage help desk to get in line. There I got to listen to and watch the behavior of the folks in front of me. The counter was 'manned' by a petite woman who kept her composure throughout, but it was upsetting for me to watch how she was being treated. It was even more disturbing because I recognized that on so many occasions in the past I had been the disrespectful, loud, obnoxious and angry person taking out frustrations and disappointment on a person who was not responsible for the problem. As each person vented, yelled and cursed at her I wondered how she managed to get up each day and come to this job. It made me want to never be one of those angry people again.
So what was different - why didn't my emotions get out of control in this situation? I've been thinking about it and I'm starting to learn some things.
See the human in the person who is in front of me. I really was able to see the agent as a person. By having empathy for her situation I was able to get a grip on my own emotions and interact with her on a professional basis. It occurred to me how awful it would be to have a job where people yelled at you all day. I wondered how people in these types of jobs take care of themselves so that the job doesn't make them sick.
Keep your priorities in order. I was focused on the most important thing - that my son got home safe. My happiness at having him home overshadowed any negative emotions.
Don't let unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. I didn't expect the luggage to be there, so the fact that one of his two bags made it was a bonus. I could celebrate that one bag was there rather than get enraged over the bag that wasn't.
Be in the moment - experience what is in front of me, not dwelling on the past, or what might be. I was able to realize that the bag wasn't there and getting upset wasn't going to change that fact.
I know that there will be times when I'll still lose it and have regrettable emotional lapses, but I will celebrate the times when I am successful and redouble my efforts to improve when I fall short. I'll be looking deeper into these insights as a part of my anger project. Please join the discussion on the Hub and Spoke Wellness page on Facebook.