There was a woman yelling in a store I was in just the other day. Loud enough for everyone in the store to look in her direction and quickly look away, over and over again. Loud enough to make everyone feel a tick of uncomfort. Loud enough to cause a scene. Oddly, as the volume rose, the complaint began to evolve. Where it had once been about the store, then the service, it moved over to be about her back pain and her time and an upcoming surgery. And, she went on and on.
I walked over to this woman and asked her what was wrong in a very soft voice, thinking she would come down a couple octaves. We lowered one octave, still yelling.
She turned to me and repeated herself, there was some miscommunication via a phone call at this store and how her back hurts and she has surgery soon and it is awful for her to leave home and this is about her time.
I paused and then asked her name. Same soft voice.
She replied and we got down about 3 more octaves, and I told her it was nice to meet her.
I double checked on her store complaint with the floor manager and continued our conversation. I inquired about her back surgery. I listened about her recent attempts with physical therapy, her dogs that need walks and how hard it is on her. I told her that I had a dog, too. I asked about her recovery time after the surgery. We talked about yoga or pilates. I shared that I was sorry about the pain she was in and we both sighed in relief together that she has insurance to cover the fees.
By this time, we were both using inside voices.
In the midst of our conversation, the store issue was resolved. And, I realized that what she really wanted was to be fully and completely heard, to be consoled, and to be loved. She wanted love from another human being, standing right in front of her, looking her in the eyes. Just love.
I remind myself from this moment, be careful to judge too quickly those that are yelling, upset and momentarily angry. It is far too easy to be annoyed, look away or roll my eyes. Perhaps in reality, all they want is for someone, for me, to ask them questions, be interested in them, be acknowledged and really feel heard.
We can do that. We can listen and love one another. I believe so.
photo credit: unknown