Don’t Get Mad, Get Curious

J, a friend from mine was at the post office one day and was waiting in the line. She realized that she needed some form, so she walked over to the table a few feet away to complete the form and then returned to her spot in line. The man in front of her in line had already moved into her spot and appeared unwilling to change his position. J was about to declare that she “was on line,” but then she realized that she was admitting, “No, those are the rules – step out of line, lose your place.”

When he heard this, the man’s attitude changed, and the man offered to let her back ahead of him. J was not interested, but when they got to the head of the line, he insisted that she go before him. They ended up in neighboring windows. After the man was finished with his work then he turned to J and smiled at her, “Have a nice day.” What could have turned out to be a negative exchange turned into an enjoyable interaction.

We all have our individual rules. We have an extensive and often unconscious, set of beliefs and expectations regarding how people ought to behaving – designed to establish some sense of control in our busy, hectic lives. Visit:-

For me, living in a city that is crowded like New York where countless encounters with strangers is the normal, the myriad of potentially conflicting “rules” is all too apparent, on the subway, the sidewalk or in the cinema…

In an effort to reach the consensus, New York magazine’s Urban Etiquette Handbook outlined modern-day rules for some of the most threatening social situations, such as using your iPhone, Blackberry, or cell phone and subway etiquette (yikes, who knew eyelash curling was not a good idea?) And breaking up with your hairstylist. But for the most part it’s not advisable to believe that there is widespread knowledge and even less consensus about what the “rules” are.

Additionally, they shift according to context. (As mentioned within the Urban Handbook, holding the doors to the train to allow someone to take a seat is not an option unless, of course, you’re the one rushing for to board the train.) The guidelines that each of us has vis a vis the people we care about are more complicated and varying. Did they get in touch regularly enough, use the appropriate phrases, spend the right amount on the proper gift, and treat our friends well enough, and otherwise show their love and respect as the way they’re “supposed” to? We rarely articulate to others what our individual rules are, instead blithely assuming that others adhere to the same rules of conduct.

With our varied socioeconomic, cultural and educational backgrounds and different life experiences how can we be able to have the same set of rules? The members in the families have distinct references and sensitivities which means that they react differently under the same circumstances. One person might think the home-cooked dinner is the best birthday celebration and another may think anything less than a seven-course dinner at a fancy restaurant is a grievous slight.

So, relying on others to discern and then adhere to your regulations will not lead to your peaceful, stress-free lifestyle you’re trying to ensure. In fact, this vigilant enforcement will likely only exacerbate your stress and frustration. So here are a few tips to guide you through a world which is filled with “unruly” behavior:

Get curious. The first rule of guidelines is to not be a victim. In most cases it’s not about you. People, especially strangers don’t seem to be reacting to your actions specifically . How could they possibly be aware of you? Instead, they’re acting out of their own convictions, anxieties, and beliefs or could be having a crappy day. Before you lose your cool and go on the bait, calm down and consider what rule or belief you are bringing on the table. Do you think “How dare he think his time is more valuable than mine!” or “People always take advantage of me–they must think I’m a push-over.” And then ask “Is it really true? How do I know that he thinks his time is more valuable than mine?” Finally, take a moment to consider the reasons why the other person took the action they did in addition to…

Find a way to be creative. See if you are able to come up with a couple of different explanations. Perhaps the man who was at the post office who told the story above had an encounter with rude people who pushed ahead of him when they were waiting in line Perhaps he came from an eight-member family and was taught to fight for his place; or perhaps the man was a busy small-business proprietor who thought there were better tasks to accomplish than mailing his own packages . Whatever it was, he had a personal rule that was the reason for the initial reaction. With a little curiosity and creativity, you can then start to…