Stop for a minute. How are you feeling right now? Are you still feeling sour about a phone call you had earlier in the day with a disgruntled client? Are you feeling flustered that the person you emailed is not responding about that urgent document you need? Alright, maybe you are not feeling that way right now, but we have all had experiences like those before. Experiences that leave us wondering, “Why was that person so unfriendly towards me today?” The explanation for these experiences is simple: This is life. We are all just people coexisting while trying to provide for our friends, our families, and ourselves.

That person who was contrite on the phone this morning? Maybe they were up late last night working to meet an important deadline. That individual who is not responding to you? Maybe a coworker called in sick for the day and he is doing double duty to keep his office running smoothly. Of course, maybe it was neither of those reasons and they were just unpleasant people.

The bigger picture is that we do not know what any one person is going through when we cross paths with them. And the point is not to try and figure out exactly what is making someone act the way they are. It is about having a greater appreciation for each other, knowing many different factors could be influencing our behavior at a given moment. If we all just take a few extra seconds to acknowledge how complex each of our lives are, and imagine what those around us could be going through, life would be so much easier.

I promise you that in most situations the other person is not out to get you. In fact, they are probably doing their best to deal with the circumstances in their life today. So, next time you are dealing with someone who is being callous, just take a minute to consider that they may be acting like this because their day was in chaos before they interacted with you. Although it is unfortunate, they may just be projecting their earlier negative experience onto you. None of this is meant to give grouchy people an excuse, but to give the person receiving the grouchiness better perspective.

The ups and downs, the good days and bad days, all come together to create our life experience. Having more empathy for one another, and practicing a little more patience, can help even out some of the bumps in the road and create a more peaceful and enjoyable journey for us all.

I think this concept is summed up nicely in a quote from the T.V. show Doctor Who:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

-The Doctor