Mean People: Whaddyagunnadoaboudit?

Last week, I was on the road for business and on one of my flight legs between Houston and Atlanta, I boarded the plane to find someone sitting in my aisle seat.  Long story short, somehow there was a glitch and they had the same seat assignment, and since they got there first, I was told to find any open available seat.  Greatttttttt….. I was one of the last ones on board at this point, and of course, the only ones remaining were the dreaded middle seats.

But it got worse… and you probably know what is coming next.

As soon as the 10,000 foot level was reached, the teenager in front of me promptly flattened her seat so all of a sudden, I had about a full-on scalp inspection right next to my face.  Boxed in, I think I had 3 inches on either side of me between passengers, and it was not sitting well with my overdeveloped sense of claustrophobia.

So I asked. Nicely.

“Excuse me? Can you please lean your seat back up just a little? My aisle seat was taken and I have really bad claustrophobia.”

The teenager’s mom heard me while the girl pretended not to hear. It took about a minute of Mom’s convincing, but finally the teen relented and inched her seat back up.

But 30 minutes later, she leaned it all the way back again right in my face, then turned up her headphones.


This story is a reminder that there really are some heartless people out there.

Sometimes we encounter these folks as colleagues. Or bosses. Or within our networks. Or even during a job search. But we all know that there are many more people who are good than bad, but what is it that makes bad people so infuriating?

I think it is their absolute ego-centrism and absolute disregard of others.

But you know what? You can’t control these people.  You can’t (or rarely) ever change their mind or even enlighten them.  They are in it for themselves, and themselves only. Personally, I can’t conceive of being so mean especially when someone was polite and made a simple request like that… but then again, I like to think of myself on the ‘nice’ team rather than the ‘mean’ team.

So what DO you do when you encounter someone who has no regard for others?  Or when they clearly do something that harms you with full knowledge of what they are doing?

What you CAN change is your attitude about the situation.  Grinding your teeth for a few moments is ok, but don’t get stuck in the well of anger or hatred… it gets you nowhere. You need to see this situation and experience, no matter how unjust it can be, as a learning opportunity on  how you can rise above the situation and be the better person.   Yes, the other person is being bad… but you don’t deserve to accept ugly feelings into your life as a result.

In my case, as trapped in as I felt, I swallowed my fear and wedged my book into view to read during the two hour flight which took me to a whole other world. My attention diverted, the time flew past quickly and soon, we were landing.

I COULD have kicked her seat in revenge. A tiny part of me wanted to ‘accidentally’ bump her seat with a hand holding a full drink… if you know what I mean… but where would that have gotten me?  For mere moments, revenge would have tasted sweet, but the rest of the flight could have gotten really ugly.

I decided to be the bigger person. Accept that which you can’t change and change the things that you can (your attitude).  Think of this tactic as a bridging activity to get you through to where you need to be… it’s the means to the end.

For the mean people who have the attitude: Whaddyagunnadoaboudit?

Your response: Forgeddaboutit. And move on. Life’s too short!