Reality Check: Can We Choose Our Response?

Travelling can be difficult at the best of times. As these times aren’t exactly the best of times, opportunities for difficulties are even higher now. Here’s a travel story; it’s about choices.
For months, a friend we’ll call Emma has been hoping to attend a special family occasion. To do so, she’ll need to fly.
We all know by now that forms, testing and procedures are required. Emma filled out the forms and made all the arrangements that she understood to be necessary.
As Emma stood in line at the ticket counter, everyone in the line-up became well aware that there was some kind of difficulty with the paperwork for the group in front of her.
Ultimately, the group was denied the opportunity to board.
Think about how you would feel in their shoes. They were not happy and they took their time expressing it with raised voices and even a few gestures. The desk agent was made aware in no uncertain terms of their frustration.
By the time the group had left and Emma made it to the counter, the young agent was noticeably rattled. Emma passed over her paperwork and was shocked to learn that she, too, would be denied boarding. She would need to be retested; she’d have to wait, and then—if she was fortunate and all went well—she could catch a later flight.
Imagine how Emma felt: angry, disappointed, a bit frightened.
Emma chose to remain calm and courteous, and not let her emotions control her response. She asked questions and followed the agent’s recommendations. Yes, it meant a day’s delay, but there seemed to be no other option.
Next day, when Emma arrived with her revised paperwork, the same agent was at the desk. She recognized Emma, greeted her warmly, and went out of her way to efficiently process her paperwork. Emma felt like a VIP.
Would Emma have received that treatment if she had given in to the urge to respond angrily the day before? Maybe so, but it seems unlikely.
However, this story isn’t about the possible advantages that come to us when we treat others well. Rather, it’s to remind us that we have choice in our responses. We might not eliminate our anger or disappointment, but we can choose what we do when we feel them. We can control our actions.
Do you think that’s true? Let’s consider some possibilities.
Change the agent to a 6’6” scary–looking dude. We might feel mad, but will we blow off steam at him in the same way we would if he were the smaller, seemingly more vulnerable woman?
Or let’s say that you are traveling with your boss, and you’d rather not lose her respect. How about if you’re with your child and you’re trying to set a good example? Maybe you’re with your mother-in-law, and you don’t want to reinforce her perception that you were a poor choice for her beloved offspring. How would you act in those situations?
If we can choose different responses depending on who we are with, then we have choice, don’t we? We may not control the emotion, but we have some choice in our response.
Do you have any travel stories? Or choice-of-response stories?

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