(I can’t write about the shooting in Texas. My heart is too heavy. Instead, I’ll write about problems we can solve.)
At a recent dinner, friends described this problem: “On a recent flight, we took off late. Many people on the plane had connecting flights. The flight attendants made the obligatory announcement about waiting for people with tight connections to leave first. However, everyone stood up and clogged the aisles. People acted selfishly, even if they didn’t have tight (or any) connections. Since we were at the back of the plane, it took precious minutes to leave.”
These friends said, “Everyone acts too selfishly.”
I said, “Yes, we do. So why not apply a little money to this problem and pay for first-class tickets?”
You should have seen the looks on their faces.
They wanted to change other people’s behaviors. I suggested they change theirs.
This particular instance—managing other people’s selfish behaviors—is a problem you can manage with a small amount of money. (Spend a little extra money, get a little time when you might need it.)
We know the airlines charge more for “better” seats. That reinforces selfishness in many ways, such as knowing you have room to stash your bag in an overhead bin. Or access to better snacks or alcohol.
The airlines create strata on the plane. Those strata reinforce selfishness. “I’ve got mine. I don’t care if you get yours.”
We hear stories that even in crashes when we need to leave in an emergency, some people try to grab their carryon bags, not help other people. (See this New York Times article.)
I suspect that under most circumstances, these people give of themselves. But, when it’s the “you against me” scenario, they put themselves first.
That’s why trying to change other people’s behaviors, especially in stressful situations, does not work.
We can only change ourselves.
Money Isn’t Always the Right Tool
I’m not saying that a small application of money is always the tool we should use. It’s not. But in situations like this, where circumstances often pit us against each other, why not use every tool you have? (Assuming you have the money.)
When I travel, I sometimes depend on other people. If these people are my fellow passengers, I take the time to listen to them. Since I use my own rollator, I don’t need a wheelchair, but sometimes those folks do me a service. I tip them.
And when those people are airline employees, I thank them with an appreciation. “I appreciate you for this <act of kindness>. You made my day. Thank you.”
Those are my tools:
- Money to reduce friction from the time I start until the end.
- Listen to other people.
- Tip people who offer a specific service.
- Appreciate the people who help or support me.
I suspect that if we all listened more and appreciated more, we might encounter fewer selfish acts. Maybe. No guarantee. But without listening and appreciating, I am sure we will continue to need a small application of money to solve these kinds of problems.