Recently I was thinking about the time I fully realized how individuals can have drastically different views of the same situation — and how we’re often our own harshest critics.
Here’s what happened.
Years ago, I hailed a cab in Manhattan and the cab driver was extremely rude to me the whole way. He didn’t want to take the route I asked him to take (which is the passenger’s right in a New York City taxi) and openly yelled at me a few times, saying that he knew the best way to go, that my way was full of traffic, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, as a native New Yorker, I knew my way around just as well — plus the route he’d wanted to take had proven to be worse for me in the past traffic-wise. So I stayed firm on my preferred route. Unhappy about not getting his way, he then muttered to himself on and off for the rest of the ride.
I was kind of in a rush and had a hard time getting a cab in the first place, so I stuck it out. I have to admit that a part of me also did wonder if something about me warranted his behavior. Did I come off more mild-mannered than I should have when I initially told him where I wanted to go, and how? Or should I not have insisted on my way afterwards?
“What is it about me that makes him think he can treat me this way?” I’d thought during the ride.
Later, I told my closest friend this, and she laughed with surprise.
“That’s so odd, because if it had been me, I would have thought, ‘What is it about him that makes him think he can treat me this way?’” she said.
I immediately knew she was right, and that simple yet brilliant distinction has always stuck with me.
We shouldn’t doubt and blame ourselves for every bad situation we find ourselves in with other people. This experience, though stressful in the moment, turned out to be a good thing for me because my friend’s comment about it helped open my eyes; now I don’t doubt myself unfairly when someone else is being out of line. I’ve even since learned a trick for proactively handling difficult people.
So if you ever have an odd encounter with someone and don’t know what to make of it, while it’s worthwhile to evaluate your own actions, don’t jump to criticizing or blaming yourself for 100% of what happened. At the very least, try to get a more objective opinion on what happened by sharing your story with a friend — or here!