Conflicts Mitigation With Patience For A Happy Ending
Conflicts and disputes arise when least expected. It was a long day from one medical facility to another for my physical examinations. I only had a couple of Ritz crackers in the morning before I left home. It was twenty minutes past five o’clock by the time I left the x-ray lab. I was tired and hungry. I just wanted to get home quickly.
The Surprise Drama
I managed to book a ride that would arrive in minutes after the booking. The automatic door opened and I noticed something stuck between the seats as I got into the car. It was a mobile phone. I picked it up and told the driver that his previous passenger might have dropped the phone in the car. The car was approaching a downslope when the phone started ringing. The driver answered the phone with the phone on the front passenger seat as he needed to drive. The voice of the caller drowned in the music from the car audio system that was playing in the background.
The driver repeatedly requested for the caller to speak up, and I could tell from the hardly audible tone of the caller that he grew impatient. It was understandable since he could not possibly know about the road situation. The caller asked that the driver return the phone to him, but the driver was having a hard time hearing him. Since the driver had already picked up a new passenger – me, he told the caller that he was on the way to sending me to my destination so he could not turn back. The caller asked when then could the driver return his phone, in which the driver replied, “tomorrow”. The caller sounded upset and argued that he needed his phone for livelihood. The driver defended that he too was driving for livelihood. I could sense the tension building up.
The driver was finding it hard to multitask between listening and answering the caller and to drive safely. The driver handed the phone to me since I offered to speak to the caller before. The caller sounded upset, and I assured him that I would ask the driver to detour to his location. The caller expressed that he would compensate the driver monetarily for his time and offered to pay for my ride. I politely declined. I really did not mind taking the detour.
The Virtue of Low Self-Esteem
I had unhealthily low self-esteem growing up. Traits like low self-esteem may follow a person for life, but it does not always have to be a red alert concern. We need to be mindful not to let it dip so low that it depreciates our self-worth.
So, what is virtuous about having low self-esteem? While it may sound like a bad thing when we do not see ourselves as important as anyone else, there is a silver lining. I always assume that everyone is facing a problem, especially if I were facing one. I would also assume that everyone’s problem is as big as mine, if not bigger. Being able to think for others leaves room for empathy and understanding to develop.
Empathy saved the day in this story.
Anger Ruins Any Chance Of Reconciliation
Once the driver heard that I committed to the caller in returning the phone, he acknowledged it respectfully. He could not help but let on an understandable defence for himself, and grievance about the previous passenger. He did not go on for much longer, so I figured that he just felt aggrieved of the situation.
We arrived at the agreed location after a few minutes drive from where the driver picked me. The caller was not there. The driver alighted with the phone and went looking for the caller, but in vain. He returned to the car and apologised that he had to park the car properly as he risked getting fined for not doing so. After he parked the car in a parking lot, he left the car with the phone again to look for its owner. I stayed in the car. A few more minutes passed before I spotted a man approaching the driver, from a distance. The pair walked towards the car. Honestly, I was nervous as I had no idea how this would unfold. From all the conflicts that I had witnessed and resolved in the past, the most trivial thing can spark an unimaginable firestorm.
I signalled to the phone owner from inside the car that I held no grudges about the unplanned episode that interrupted my ride home. Of course, a mere strange signing may not have expressed my feelings exactly. Even with a face mask, he looked upset. The driver unlocked the car doors, and both men opened the car doors together from each side. The phone owner said sternly that he wanted to state in the record before a witness – me – for the compensation. He offered $50 for the driver’s time and my ride. The driver and I insisted that he did not have to do that. He dropped the $50 note on the seat, closed the door, and left.
Unlocking The Locked Door
To avoid further conflict, the driver and I simultaneously agreed to accept the money and end the episode. The driver must feel aggrieved and bemused at the same time. He let out a sigh of helplessness and highlighted that the phone owner’s attitude was uncalled for. I agreed, but I also had no idea what had happened between the two men before my ride, so I withheld my judgement. I had not spoken to the phone owner adequately to know if he was a good person. From the gesture of compensating the driver and me, it showed that he was at least a fair person.
I hoped to mitigate the driver’s affected mood, so I casually mentioned that perhaps the phone owner was having a bad day. After all, we are still getting through a global pandemic, and we do not know what people are going through during this time. The driver defended that having a bad day should not be a reason to be rude to others. I agreed. After having said that, the driver expressed that if anyone had a foul mood, it would be him. He disclosed that his wife had been warded in the ICU for three months now; she has been in a coma state. Once he shared that information, he instantly felt empathetic towards the phone owner. He quieted for a few seconds and agreed that we could never know what kind of troubling problems each person is facing; like the phone owner and I could not know his wife has been in a coma.
I suggested that the massive stress that everyone is managing as a result of the pandemic could cause difficult emotions. We chatted briefly but deeply about the topic of showing patience, understanding, and most importantly, gratitude in times like this. Remembering gratitude, he sounded more relaxed and relieved. It was in the tone of his voice when he talked about his wife as a 100% good wife and 100% good mother that I could tell he misses his wife.
When Weakness Is Strength
In this story, there is no bad guy, and that is never the point of this story. By telling this story, I hope to shine the limelight on each character in the story.
It is in the weakness that we find strength.
It must have been stressful for the driver to have to deal with both the new passenger and old passenger. If he had not been able to empathise, he would not find peace so quickly. Recognising that we are all subject to weaknesses, we seek the strength to understand and forgive undesired behaviours. It became easier for the driver to let go of the frustration with the phone owner when he found relatedness of his trouble with the phone owner’s possible challenges.
I did not get an account from the phone owner of the history between the driver and himself, so I could not comment if his displeasure with the driver was justified. The fact that he provided compensation could suggest that he recognised that it was no fault of the driver or me for his misplacing of the phone.
I am handling some personal matters that contribute to a substantial amount of stress. I could understand that everyone is going through some difficult times and mental stress of the uncertain future that the pandemic brings. I want to give a little more patience to people as I crave the same understanding from others.
Things Could Have Gone Badly Quickly
By the end of the ride, both the driver and I were grateful that the unintended event ended somewhat well. I highlighted that the takeaway should be that we both benefited from the compensation, and no one got hurt.
There are many things to be grateful for if we counted them. Think about it.
The New Passenger – Me
- I could be impatient and unreasonable, given that I was tired and hungry.
- I could have insisted that the driver send me home first since I had nothing to do with the previous ride transaction.
- I could have kept the phone for myself.
- I could have fought with the phone owner on the phone, and in-person.
- The driver could have refused to answer the phone.
- The driver could have said it was his phone.
- The driver could have been violent.
- The driver could have fought with the phone owner on the phone, and in-person.
The Phone Owner
- The phone owner could have been violent.
- The phone owner could have fought with the phone owner on the phone, and in-person.
All things considered, I think all three of us benefited from the outcome of this conflict. The phone owner had his phone returned to him. It could have cost him more if I kept the phone and the driver did not know the phone was not in the car. The phone owner might need to buy a new phone, and who knows if he had backups for his invaluable phone data.
If the phone owner and the driver had a violent streak, things could end really badly with them. And me. I might need to be the witness of a crime, instead of just a witness of a dispute. The driver got compensated more than he would have earned from just my ride.
I guess I was the leech beneficiary of this incident. Except for a small delay in getting home, I was grateful that the driver and I shared deep conversations during the short journey home. Reaching my destination, the parting words between the driver and I were well wishes to each other and remembering the graciousness of gratitude.
While it is comfortable to do the easy things like losing our cool intuitively when met with conflicts, but it is usually far more rewarding to feel the pride of our restraint. Life is hard for everyone, more so during this time, and this is exactly why we ought to practice more tolerance, patience, and gratitude.