He Told Everyone to Stop Complaining – A glimpse behind the curtain

 In Communication, Negative emotions, Relationships

I was training a department that was going through a lot of change. People were sharing how stressful it was and how hard it made their jobs.

I noticed a gentleman in the back with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. Suddenly he interrupted, “You should all just be happy you have a job and stop complaining! I was taught in the military that we should each stay in our own lane and stop worrying about anything else.”

At the break, I had a chance to talk to the gentleman and asked which branch of the military he had been in. He told me the Marines. Then he said, “I was there after the tsunami hit Japan in 2011. I was part of the body clean-up crew. These people don’t know how good they have it.”

Suddenly, I had a whole different perspective of this guy and his earlier comment. Suddenly, I had more understanding and empathy. 

How often do we get a glimpse behind the curtain to really understand people?  How often do we know their hurts, their trauma, their experiences? Yet these are the things that shape their ideas, views, and beliefs.

So many of us put up a good front. We pretend to be happy, to take things in stride, yet on the inside, we’re struggling.

During a recent presentation, one of the attendees was joking around, making everyone laugh. He seemed laid back. Later, we were doing an exercise to help people reframe a stressful situation in their life. Everyone was talking about how now they could see that they were creating a lot of the stress and in the bigger picture, the situation that was bothering them didn’t really matter.

The person who had been joking earlier chimed in. With bitterness in his voice,  he said, “That’s because nothing in life really matters.” It was a glimpse behind the curtain.

It’s normal to get triggered because of other people’s words and actions. But if we can remind ourselves that we don’t know what they’re struggling with, hopefully, we can find more patience and empathy.

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