One day last week I went to a large craft/ hobby store for a specific item that I had seen there before. After wandering the entire store two times I saw an employee with a loaded cart of art supplies staring at the frame display. I slowly wheeled close to her and said, “Excuse me.” I’ve done this many times, and the employees always point me in the right direction. Without taking her eyes of the empty frames she said in a stern voice, “Mam?” I honestly did not know if she had phone earpiece in the ear that I could not see, so I stood patiently waiting for her to finish her conversation and make the proper eye contact. Let me back up to tell you that this particular large box store is a Christian store, they are closed on Sundays and take out an amazing full page ad at Easter. I prefer to do all of my craft/ hobby buying at this store, plus they offer a 40% off coupon every week. While waiting, my mind was running through the long list of things I needed to get done that day and this was my first item I wanted red checked. After about 30 seconds, she turned to me and said “YES?” I got full view of her head, and no headset. I could feel her impatience with me and I politely say, “Never mind” and wheeled away. As soon as I turned out of the aisle, my pace quickened and I was debating whether to ask for the manager or boss of this location. When I reached the front of the store, I had another thought, I could do what I challenge my clients to do, change the story. This is how I did it.
This poor woman was up all night with 2 year old twins. One was coughing and the other was throwing up. She could not get any sleep, her husband worked all night so he can stay home with the babies to avoid daycare expense. She was exhausted and tired, that is why she was staring at the frames. I continued to tell a story about this young woman and began to feel my heart soften towards her. She wasn’t belligerent, she didn’t resent her job, in fact she was polite, remember she said “Mam”. She was thankful that she was able to work for a company that guaranteed her every Sunday off to spend time with her family. After lapping the store one more time, I fought the urge to ask her if I could help her and her young family in some way.
This is really as easy as when you are driving and you come to a 4 way stop sign, each choice gives you a different journey, a different scenery. You choose. Based on which road you go down, the outcome could be better or worse, or the same. Sometimes you don’t know if your final destination will be the Land of Peace or the Land of Misery. Since I am sure you have been to both places, just like me, why not choose your destination?
By using the facts I knew about the store and the woman I could choose two different believable stories. One made me feel mad and angry (Land of Frustration), the other made me feel sorry for her (Land of Empathy). After asking the checkout clerk the location of my needed item, I was informed they were sold out, I then went to my car and continued to enjoy the rest of my day. When asked by my husband how my day went, I told him a story about a young mom in a store who looked so exhausted that my heart hurt for her. I have control over the way I perceive situations in my life. I choose how I react to them. That is not only self-control but empowering, I dare you to try it. Next time on a major highway like I-4 and someone cuts you off, say, “I sure hope they make it to the bathroom in time.” Your heart should soften and you may even laugh instead of experiencing rage.
Author: Elizabeth Havens, MFT clinical intern- firstname.lastname@example.org
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