I’m not very patient sometimes. For example, when I am tired, irritated or when I don’t get my own way.
I was all of the above after just under 20 hours of air travel and airport waiting. I was tired, I had been allocated ANOTHER back of plane experience (thanks Delta for putting the code-share Virgin passengers at the back of the full plane – both ways). I hate the back of the plane – ask David, I complained about it endlessly.
We’d come from 40 degrees in California to 4 degrees in Sydney and were informed by Virgin that we had to board our final flight from the tarmac as our seats were at the back of the plane. Again! Kill me now, I thought. As a loyal Virgin traveller I am normally allocated close to front row seats. I like it, it’s less bumpy, I get my cup of tea early and I get off the plane in good time.
Imagine this: It’s 8 am and 4 degrees. I’m cold and standing at the top of the rear metal stairs and the queue is at a standstill. I’m wearing thongs (flip flops for the Americans!). I start to complain to the flight attendant at the door that code-share passengers should always be allocated front of plane seating. I know she saw me mouth a few hurry up type swear words to who ever was being a snail stowing their carry on luggage in the aisle around the corner. I tell her that we are tired and we’ve come from a hot place to a cold place. Oh and did I mention how much I hate back of plane seating?.
Her first line was that she was grateful that the sun was shining and that it wasn’t raining. Not that I should be grateful, that she was grateful.
Then as we finally filed past she thanked me for my patience. Nicely. And sincerely. I was very taken aback and I was honest when I replied she shouldn’t be thanking me as I hadn’t been patient at all. She looked me in the eye, laughed nicely and said that at least I had been engaging in conversation.
It took the wind right out of my sails.
In that moment I had one of those enlightened flashes where I learned something.
Apart from the obvious that I still hate the back of the plane and complaining wasn’t going to change it, I witnessed a display of conflict resolution that uses what I call the third option.
Let me explain.
I was being a bully. When being bullied most people react in one of two main ways
1. Victim mode by taking it personally, or
2. Bully mode by charging back to try and change my attitude or by retaliating.
She chose the third option – self love. She did not engage in my grumpiness. She did not take it personally nor she did not feel she had to change my mind or my attitude. She was positive of attitude and self assured. I wish I could have met her in a different time and place. I bet her life is amazing!
Just under 20 hours of back of plane travel demonstrated a valuable concept to me. I am almost grateful for it… Just kidding, I am very grateful for it.