Yesterday, I decided to travel from Amsterdam to The Hague to meet a friend. I was in the country for a few days and it was a good opportunity to catch up.
I did some work beforehand and set off to Amsterdam Centraal station to catch the train. I got there a bit late and missed the one I wanted to get.
No problem, there were enough trains passing through. I wasn’t sure which one was the best one to get, so I decided to go to the information booth and find out.
As I was making my way there it became apparent there was a commotion. There was some sort of disagreement between a customer and the women behind the desk.
As they were speaking in Dutch I had no idea what they were talking about, but from the look on both of their faces it didn’t look like a pleasant discussion.
While this was going on, all I was thinking was “What is going on!?”
After a minute or two, the discussion came to an end and the man walked off with his wife to catch a train I presume. It became clear at this point that the women working at the information booth was distressed.
Tears were welling up and she was looking for someone to step in for her, while she took some time out to deal with the emotion of the situation.
All the while I was dumbfounded by what was going on. I have no idea what they were talking about, or who was in the right, or if anyone was.
Maybe they had a misunderstanding.
Maybe they had a disagreement.
I don’t know what happened. What I do know is that the reaction of the women working there suggests something had been said to her which was hurtful.
This is an assumption on my part, but I don’t think it takes a psychologist to work out that she was distressed at what happened. It was clear for all to see.
This incident got me thinking about the way we treat other people. Whatever happened, this women was doing her job. She would have tried to help the man, maybe she got some information, maybe he misinterpreted what she said.
Mistakes happen, we are human after all. None of us are perfect. But, there is a right and a wrong way to treat people, and whatever was said, this man was on the wrong side.
This may be an overreaction to one incident, but I do think it encapsulates a wider problem in society today.
One of a lack of respect for each other.
We are less tolerant of other people’s viewpoints if they do not match with our own. This is the age of Twitter, where views that are more polarised in nature are broadcast without any barrier.
If you identify with those views and someone disagrees with you, it has become a default reaction to go into our shell and retaliate, or cry foul.
Whether this is beginning to seep into daily life I am not sure, but I would say it’s slowly making itself evident.
This takes me back to my time in primary school when we were asked as a class to come up with rules for the upcoming year.
You had the standard answers such as do what the teacher says, do your work to the best of your ability. However, there was one rule that has always stuck with me ever since I first heard it.
Treat people the way you would want to be treated.
Even at a young age this resonated with me. I can barely remember the other rules, but this one has left an indelible impression on me.
It’s such a simple concept, but one that we often forget. If we all treated each other the way we would want to be treated, the world would be a much better place.
The reality is, it’s easier to feel slighted than it is to acknowledge, we or someone else has made a mistake and treat the situation with dignity.
Maybe it’s human nature to react negatively to things we don’t like to hear, but it’s something that we should try and avoid.
When confronting the perceived failings, or lack of respect from others, it’s important to consider this quote from Marcus Aurelius.
“When you are offended at any man’s fault, immediately turn to yourself and reflect in what manner you yourself have erred: for example, in thinking that money is a good thing or pleasure, or a bit of reputation, and the like.”
We are all fallible. We will all make mistakes, we will all fall foul of someone else’s standards. We can’t change how they react to us, but we can choose how we react to similar situations where the roles are switched.
Respect for each other is becoming increasingly important. In a world which is becoming ever-more polarised, we need to be tolerant of each other more than ever.
We may not agree with each other viewpoints, but we should respect them nonetheless. When we show a lack of respect to other people, it says more about us than it does the other person.
It shows that you place your feelings and wellbeing above others. It shows that you are selfish and self-absorbed. Above all, it shows that you are not a well-rounded and grounded person.
I have no idea about the character of the two people that were involved in the disagreement in Amsterdam. But, judging by their actions I could make an educated guess.
Missing a train or being given wrong information is no reason to shout at someone who is only doing their job. The women held herself with dignity in the face of this barrage and was understandably upset afterwards.
If the roles had been reversed I’m sure the man would have been unhappy at receiving the abuse that he dished out. Sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and think about how we act before we do.
Respect works two ways. How can you ask for it, if you’re unwilling to give it to other people?
The sooner we realise this the better.