Picture the scene in your mind: two people walk past one another exchanging only a fleeting glimpse in a passing moment, a chance encounter, a brief interaction. Funny how less than a few seconds of experience can spawn like, a billion ideas about human relationships. Three and a half seconds of time resulting in countless unique thoughts.
In any case, two strangers happen upon each other. Different mental models and understandings of how the world works, different pasts and experiences, different values and beliefs about their ideas of perfection and pain.
One interaction, two perspectives.
It happens to each of us every day. Sometimes we acknowledge the passing experience, if only to ourselves. Other times, maybe it’s someone else thoughtfully remarking about an interaction with you.
On this occasion, it was walking into a coffee shop passing an older lady. I had thought the gesture of holding the door for someone was understood as kind and courteous gesture. Sometimes though, I’m too quick to move on, the door closes, or perhaps a shadow unseen.
This time, the gesture slipped and missed- no ones fault.
Timing is everything after all. My desire to be helpful to a perfect stranger was missed; less than her vision of perfection. That’s a high standard for two strangers passing in the day.
She: a flash if indignation and suffering. Damn the pain … of not holding the door.
I’m embellishing just a smudge for drama but in reality doubt was created around my intent, around my Why, around the uncertainty of my actions. It wasn’t my insecurity, however.
Perhaps she did not envision perfect, but I don’t know what difference it makes if we have one expectation for how to interact with people in a given situation. Anything less than expected is imperfect in some ways. The question is less about idealism and more about tolerance.
The worst is someone else trying to spread their bad mood. It amazes me how hard people try to spread negativity often effortlessly, and conversely how little they contribute to grace and positivity. Those faces!
Recognizing the folly of being sucked in to her bitter-beer-face trap, I chose not to. Instead, I paused, realized the nature of my miss, processed and moved along.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through the years as a coach is to assume positive intent. Rarely is someone out to get me, and the near misses and calamities of my life are usually the result of someone not trying their best, ignorance, or bad timing.
Timing is everything
We each have different belief systems that measure and evaluate perfection and pain differently- but we all experience it. There isn’t much that separates the lowly from the best of us. We all share similar feelings and emotions; we just value them differently in our lives. We travel from experience to experience expecting perfection and running from pain.
Mindset, attitude, intent, belief- the differentiating qualities we’re able to impact. My journey has taken years and after all that, I can tell you the past is an afterthought and the future is uncertain.
Said the ever-eloquent Jim Morrison,
Keep your eyes on the road and your hands up on the wheel. The future’s uncertain and the end is always near
Back to the door lady … I kept on keeping on. Rumination was flowing by the time I was in my car. Her doubt and offense was more a reflection of her than of me.
Sometimes I miss and I don’t know what the future holds, but I am certain that tomorrow I will still value the courtesy and kindness of opening the door for whoever comes next.
It’s a part of my identity.