Psychologically Speaking: Surviving the sabras

Psychologically Speaking

'You're in my seat." These were the words barked at us, on two different occasions as we sat calmly waiting for our flight to take off to Israel. There was no "excuse me" or "I think you may..." or "could you please check..." Rather, it was that startling rude behavior that served as a reminder that we were heading back home. I have lived here for 10 years and without a doubt I absolutely love this country. That said, some people really could get on your nerves if you let them. We all know that it is behavior like this that differs vastly from the overly sweet North Americans and the very proper Brits and gives us, Israelis, a bad name. The airplane scenario reminded me of a run-in I had with my neighbor a few weeks earlier. Unable to get out of my driveway, as my neighbor had parked blocking it, I commented to said neighbor that he was blocking me and I would be unable to get out. Sit down for this one. He responded, in all seriousness, "Oh, that's okay, I am at home most of the day. Just ring my doorbell when you are ready to leave and I will move my car." So after closing my mouth and recovering from the shock, I decided I could respond by calling the police, by yelling or not at all. Some things don't merit too much deliberation, as they just don't make any sense. He assumed that if he needed to park, he could just block me off, and when I needed to leave, I would come find him. I would never in a million years have thought to inconvenience someone like this and he does it regularly! So back to the flight. As it ultimately turned out, one person had erroneously looked at his boarding card from a previous flight and the other was supposed to sit in the row ahead of us. I certainly don't mind when people make mistakes. We all do. The kicker is the attitude - the assumption that they were right and we were wrong and not even an "I'm sorry" when they each discovered that they had erred. Life is about choices. Let these men ruin our flight or reinterpret the situation. We have all encountered rude people at the bank, the grocery store and other places. People push in line, say they had a reserved spot and show up in the express line with 20 and not 10 items. Drivers cut you off, don't signal and think nothing of double-parking in traffic while they run in to buy a liter of milk. So, there is rudeness, hutzpa and lots more. To those who have recently made aliya or to those who, even after living here for years are burning a hole in their gut because they get stressed by it all, I offer these tips for survival. Take a very deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly out through your mouth. This will help you feel calm, refocus you and give you a minute before you have to do or say anything. Ask yourself if this is a 10, on a scale of zero to 10, where 10 is very serious and 0 is a nothing. My 10 is serious medical illness and death. You need to determine your own 10s as they are not the same for everyone. So, to use the example of the airplane, the behavior of the two men was irritating and obnoxious; for a second I may have even thought to rate it a seven, but the minute I thought of a serious 10, this became a one or a two. Take another deep breath. It may not seem important but it is. You want to act out of calmness, not react out of anger. If you are calm, you are in control. If you are angry, you most likely are not in control. Now ask yourself this question: "Will this situation be important to me in three years?" To go back to my airplane guys, if I were not writing this column, I would have forgotten about them already. Let's now say that this is a 10 for you even after you have run test 1 and test 2 above. You are ready to say something. Stop and think. Test 3 is the hardest because it takes the longest - maybe five seconds and involves making a choice. Ask yourself, what will be the consequences of your action? How will you feel afterward? So, assuming I am really annoyed by the nasty way these men have spoken, I can react in a way that does not honor who I am as a person. I can be equally obnoxious, in which case I am likely to be ignored, feel embittered or look bad. You can say almost anything to anyone. How you choose to say it will determine how it is heard and acted upon. Let's say you are annoyed by these obnoxious guys, but instead of being nasty back, you do just the opposite. In your nicest tone you say, "Excuse me, but I don't believe it is me that made a mistake. Here's my ticket. Can I please see yours?" As you discover that he has made an error, you smile and wish him a pleasant flight. You take your final deep breath, let it go and forget about the incident forever. You move on. You've created your own positive experience and you're happy. You've smelled the roses, enjoyed the Mediterranean sunset, smiled when the cashier wished you a shana tova and you feel good about yourself. Through your behavior you serve as Israel's ambassador and a role model to the world. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.