Have you ever stared at someone or been stared at with such intensity that you felt incredibly uncomfortable to the point of anger?
When you reach that boiling point, have you ever considered what it is that causes that anger?
The other day, I was standing in the mall across from a cafe waiting for someone to arrive for our lunch date. I was simply playing Candy Crush and occasionally looking up to see if I could see my friend arrive. My dress was moderate (something to consider in a Muslim country). Each time I looked up a middle-aged white woman, dressed in a suit with an unhappy aura about her was staring at me. Initially, I ignored her, but as I continued to look up, she was continuing to stare at me without shame or seeming purpose. Her glare was hostile, but I could not understand why. Finally, I smiled at her and said “Hi”. To which she responded by shaking her head and continuing to stare whilst stirring her yet to be eaten soup. Now, there was nothing to prove that she had a negative feeling towards me nor did she open her mouth to give evidence that she was unhappy towards me. However, the shake of her head and refusal to look away was definitely an aggressive move. So, I politely asked, “Do I know you? Or should I?” Again, the woman did not respond. Rather, she rolled her eyes at me, shook her head again, continued to stare and stir her soup. This became rather comical to me, so I just laughed at her – not with her, AT her. By this time, my friend had texted and I went into the cafe to get a seat. As I passed, the woman merely went back to her soup and began to eat.
Sure, I could have gone up to speak with the woman to find out her thoughts and feelings, but I was annoyed by this point and not in the correct frame of mind to be open and compassionate. So, instead, I sat down wondering what was her deal?!
As I pondered, I shifted to wondering what made me so annoyed by her behavior? Did I feel threatened somehow and if so, by what or for what reason?
Sometimes we get so caught up in the behavior of other people that we do not stop to reflect upon our responses to the behavior. We do not have control over how others behave towards us. Therefore, we can only change and understand our side of any interaction. Perhaps I should have spoken to her first with an open mind and asked her if she was alright or simply moved to another waiting place so that we did not have to face each other at all.
In any case, it was a good reminder for me to think about my reactions and to consider what I can do to alleviate tension in a situation in which I have some control.
Have you been in a situation where you could have responded differently and had a totally different outcome?
-The Universal Asian