March 1, 2024

Here’s What to do the Next Time a Stranger Pisses you Off.

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It happens to all of us.

Every once in a while, a total stranger drives us &@#%’ing crazy.

Maybe it’s the guy behind us on the airplane, kicking our seat every 20 seconds.

Maybe it’s someone in the movies talking way too loud all movie long.

Maybe it’s a woman in a restaurant who won’t mute her phone and it dings and and beeps and rings throughout the whole meal.

The point is, with eight billion people on the planet, we’re bound to piss each other off once in a while. But the next time someone you don’t know is really irritating you, try this:

Start up a conversation with them.

Any way you can.

And I don’t mean a “Lemme give you a piece of my mind…” one. (I’ve tried that, too.)

But a “Lemme try to actually get to know this person” one.


Because I guarantee you’ll find out something about them that makes you hate them less.

You’ll have humanized them. And once we see someone as a human (and not as an asshole), it’s a lot harder to hate them.

I’m not saying you’ll now see them as an angel and worship their every move. But you might find out there’s a reason they’re not on their best behavior, one that makes it harder to be pissed at them. And any resentment you can remove from your life and exchange for sympathy makes you a better person, too. For you, for your family, your friends, and for the strangers you meet.

Take this example:

A few months ago, I was in a bar catching up with an old friend, and the guy three stools over from us was talking as loudly as if he were at a Metallica concert. It was ridiculous. My friend and I could no longer hear our conversation. So as my resentment started to build, I knew I had to try to find a way to dissipate it. I’ve learned this trick enough times now to know it’s the only way I’ll lessen my frustration. So I looked for a way to chat him up. Looked like he was drinking whiskey, like I was, so I started there.

“Hey man, curious, what whiskey you having tonight?” (Demonstrating interest.)

“Oh, me? Uh, Woodford, I think.” I got lucky here, as that’s my fave.

“Right on, same here, my fave.” (Establishing connection.)

“What was that?” he says, as if he can’t hear me, strangely. So I repeat myself, a bit louder.

And then he says the thing that changes everything: “Yeah, my favorite, too. And sorry, I don’t hear too well. Lost most of it years ago,” he says with a half-hearted chuckle.

“Oh really?” I ask, realizing there’s more to his story. “How’d that happen, if I can ask?”

Then he says the thing that changes everything, “Over in Afghanistan. Three tours, but I think it was the first one that did it.”

Afghanistan. Where he was serving the country. Have I ever done that? Nope.

“Awww, sorry to hear that, man. Who’d you serve with?”

“Army,” he says, with a proud nod. “Fifteen years. Was around a few too many mortar shells overseas, heavy artillery and stuff. Lot of us came back without much hearing.”

Here I’d been, silently resenting the guy, totally unaware that he’d made incredible sacrifices for the country, which unfortunately included his hearing. Suddenly, he’s not an “asshole” in my mind anymore; he’s just a poor guy who got screwed and is carrying on the best he can.

“Well, thanks for your service, man; I’m sure you went through hell.”

“Good and bad…good and bad,” he replies.

Then I knew what I had to do. “Tell ya what, your next Woodford’s on me,”

He cheers’ed me and smiled. “If you insist!”

I bought him his next drink, and after that, his loud voice didn’t bother me at all. And funnily enough, without me having to say a word, he started talking quieter. We both came away from it with more appreciation for our fellow man, being more considerate.

And that’s something we can make happen every time we’re starting to get resentful of someone we don’t know.

We just have to forge a connection, any way we can, trusting that somehow, some way, there’s probably something we can bond over.

Now, I’m not saying it’s gonna end this well every time. You’re not always going to learn something about the person that completely changes your perspective. But you might learn you’re both from the same state, or both have the same favorite band, or that you both lost a parent to cancer.

Whatever happens, it’ll probably be a lot harder to resent them.

And that’s not just better for them, that’s better for you.

Because if there’s one thing that the world can use a lot more of, it’s understanding and empathy.

Here’s to your chat with the next “asshole” you meet.

They might just become a new friend.


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