Listen to Understand, not Judge

Listen to Understand, not Judge

I witnessed a man yesterday, wait so long for his coffee that by the time he received it he was literally, and yes, I mean to use that word, shaking. He was so infuriated by the apparent lack of orderliness, that he stood up and left having never even touched the mug. There was no tantrum, or even obvious aggression, only a quiver in his stomach that kept rising till breaking point.

It was gallingly apparent to me that despite my initial judgment, we too engage in analogous microcosmic parleys every single day. I would like to tell you this was my first conception of what took place. As if I was overcome with empathy and insight. No, I judged that man before I even stepped back to understand.

We are stubborn. We will forgo an opportune moment in the present, in response to a now vapid psychological response in the past. And we trade amongst these feelings constantly, trying to balance the psychology and the practicality of life.

I sat and thought about this concatenation of events for a good 25-mins, staring into the abyss of the cafe, albeit probably scaring the other patrons with my beard and backpack. At first, there was no obvious etiology between his actions and my judgements of his psychology, that is, until I allowed myself to engage in his shoes, for lack of a better term.

Maybe, him leaving the table was exactly the right decision. Had he stayed and enjoyed his coffee, he might have fueled his resentment with every caffeinated swallow, painfully carving more space in his mind for a pernicious manifestation of resentment and bitterness. Instead, he stood and traded with the past.

“I’ll forgo this opportunity and all that it demanded to get to the coffee – sitting down, waiting, paying money, getting angry – in order to be subservient to the greater good found in the sacrifice of choosing a more healthy psychological state.”

It was brilliant, and so wise, even if entirely unconscious on his behalf. Of course, he equally could have walked off and burdened himself more than the challenge to overcome in the moment, but as a romantic, that feels like a specious explanation, and moreover, banal. To see this human being trading with the tenses seems incredible to me, even if it’s completely trite to you.

Despite your own presuppositions regarding the concluding axiom of this story, it is not to tell you to trade with the future, though that is a really good lesson. It’s simply to watch people to understand, not to judge. Learn to listen, watch, and observe, beyond the initial judgements that appear in your field of view, because if you do, there are lessons you couldn’t even think up, hiding in almost every single second of every single day