From Anger to Compassion

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

He screwed up my order four times.

First time was at the speaker.  He just couldn’t seem to get it down right.  It wasn’t hard either.  The apple turnover must have thrown him off.

He handed me my drink.  One sip proved that it wasn’t iced tea. 

Both the great Arby’s folly of March 5, 2019 was not yet done.  He asked me for a receipt he hadn’t yet given me.  Gave me the wrong bag of food.  Forgot the turnover.

It really wasn’t the day for this.  Tough morning.  Lots to do.  Very tight scheduling.  Not the day at all.  So, I wasn’t frustrated.  I wasn’t upset.  I was angry.  Mad.  Irritated.  This young kid at the Arby’s drive up window had provoked me to anger.  How could he be so stupid?  Why couldn’t he even do his job with minimum competence?  Why does he even have a job? 

By the time I turned out of Arby’s and into the street to take me home, the anger had passed a bit.  It was replaced by a combination of embarrassment and slight irritation.  The irritation was a byproduct of the prior anger and the embarrassment was about how I let this situation dictate my emotions and drive me to anger.  Truly embarrassed for how I felt and how this changed the composition of my emotions and my day.

Three stoplights later, there was another shift.  This time, thoughts and feelings of empathy replaced the prior emotions.  Situational empathy that I have been in spots where I just continue to screw up and make things worse.  Emotional empathy that I have been overwhelmed by work and new situations and he was obviously that.

By the time I rolled into the driveway, the final shift occurred.  The empathy has now been replaced by compassion.  I was feeling care for that young man.  I wanted to go back and tell him it would be okay and that better days are ahead of him.  Stopped and prayed a minute for him to help him have peace and comfort. 

This evolution from anger to compassion is not unique to me or unique to bad customer experiences at Arby’s.  I can remember painfully well how I reacted in a similar way when my mom first had symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  All emotionally intelligent and mature people do this at varying times and in different ways. 

A purposeful approach to move out of anger and into compassion is absolutely needed.  Organically and with time, anger with subside but not without taking a toll on you and those around you.  To use a more purposeful approach will get you out of it quicker and recovered to a healthy emotional condition very rapidly.

  1. Acknowledge the Anger

Don’t deny or hide that you are upset.  Internally, and sometimes externally acknowledge those feelings.  Be aware of your surroundings and when it is appropriate to share with others.

  1. Provide Perspective

Where does the event fit in the grand scheme of life or even where does it fit, relative to importance in today.

  1. Create Empathy

Put yourself or someone you care about in the narrative of the event.  Use them in the role of protagonist.  Look for situations in which you or your actions have created anger in others.

  1. Show Compassion

Take a moment and reflect on how you could have provided some loving response or encouragement for the person and in that situation. 

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

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