Seeing a Situation From All Sides

Benefits of Observing Others

Lets take a look a story from a few different angles..

Alright here we go..

5 hour journey on a Sri Lankan bus. This should be interesting!

Oh man.. just three seats together. “Alright babe, don’t worry I’ll sit just right behind you guys!”

Would be nice to sit with my mate and our girlfriends but I can take one for the team today.. I am quite the gentleman.

Oh great that girl is being guided over to my row… Awesome.

K, well at least she can have the middle seat. I’m not moving.

This isn’t so bad. At least I have half the aisle to spread out a bit.

What a wild ride this is! Kind of fun now isn’t it? Oh yeah I packed some biscuits.. Perrrrfect..

Hmm.. More people are getting on with each stop. This bus is really filling up.

This little old lady is really getting up in my space.

Why is she so close to me? It’s not like there isn’t enough room for her..

She is leaning all over me. What’s her deal?

Alright well.. I’ll just attempt to ignore this and read my book.

*reading attempts, glares, and long savored blinks take place*

She is literally towering over me. God she might as well just lay down on my lap!

Stop grabbing my seat…… Stop hovering 45 degrees over my anxious, sweating body please.

It’s like this woman is just trying to piss me off and make me uncomfortable.

I’m really about to freak out any second right now.

Alright here we go..

I have been on this bus since I was a kid but I really don’t know if I can even make it up these stairs anymore..


Definitely not as young as I once was.

I knew there wouldn’t be any seats again.. It is about to be high season for the tourists to come..

I am beyond exhausted.

I am as weary as a woman who has been working day in and day out for over 55 years.. But you know what? Today is just another normal day flying around this wild bus ride.

I better hold on before I soar across these people..

*grabs the hand rail … another woman covers the hand with her own*

Comfort, safety, togetherness..

What a beautiful culture I live in.

I could really fall asleep standing here on this roller coaster…

Alright here we go..

I climb onto the bus and see yet another adventure and packed caravan.

The driver guides me toward middle seat in between two large men..Wonderful.

This tourist guy seriously just got up to let me in the middle seat? ..Classic.

Then we’ve got this other guy over here taking up a seat and a ½.


Alright Bay, you’ve got a book to entertain you and some beautiful views with the wind rushing in. All is good.

Why does this local man insist on spreading his legs as far as possible?

He’s really just invading my space… I won’t let him move another inch closer.

Put up a little barrier.

Bailey, don’t be dumb. Its not YOUR space.

That’s merely a construct made up by wealthy societies that are based on independence and distance.. silly girl.

Besides, he’s kinda comfy if I just let go of these thoughts engrained in my brain.

It is just fine if we’re touching, that’s not weird everywhere in this world.

This book is so fascinating..

Dale Carnegie please, tell me more about the psychology of humans.

I can’t even see the pages of my book because this old woman’s bag is flying in front of my face and her stomach is just there above my thighs. I cannot see my hands in front of my face because she insists on slanting in between the two.

How is she even enjoying being so diagonal?

I am just going to close my eyes to avoid how absolutely uncomfortable I feel sitting here.

. . .

My feet are really just killing me.. I am so uncomfortable falling around this bus.

I am getting too old for this.

. . .

I can’t decide which is more of a fascinating stimulation, this book or the display of human psychology watching this boy crawl in his skin as this woman piles onto him.

She really does not need to be holding on for her dear life at such an old age..

I think that if this gentleman didn’t feel so invaded then he would have happily given this woman his seat, but now he feels the need to put up a defensive barrier.

To be fair, I have been sitting for hours now on this seat and my bum even hurts a bit. I think the tension can really just be wiped out with one simple gesture.

“Excuse me, I am going to get up and let this woman sit here.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Well, you can imagine how life was lived after that. The woman, filled with gratitude and exhaustion, dove quickly into the seat as if she were collapsing. Before she closed her eyes and fell asleep, she made sure to connect with me down in the depths of eye contact, soul contact. I felt her.

The boy grew. He was released. His mind was a bit freer, as well as his body.

He could finally breathe. He moved about and read his book calmly.

His girlfriend looked back, smiled in a relieving manner. Her man’s suffering was over.

I was happy too.

I stretched my legs. I got back to Dale and flew along for the adventurous ride.

Life was good.

And then.. She fell asleep on his shoulder.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What did I learn through this extraordinarily common, uneventful situation?

1. Get out of your world and step into others’

We have all heard it a million times in many different ways.

Walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes.

Look at the world from another set of eyes.

Regardless of how you frame it, perspective and empathy are such key elements to coexisting.

Feel your pain and pressures and then look to the person next to you and try to imagine theirs.

In the book that I was reading on the bus, “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” Mr. Carnegie writes that nobody cares what you have to say or what you are interested in. People only care about themselves. They only care about their interests and you in terms of your relevance to their lives.

He goes on to explain many reasons why knowing this is beneficial to your existence. While reading this I realized that this boy did not even consider the woman.

He did not think about her point of view. He did not think about her worn-out feet. He did not see her lack of ability to stand up straight, hold on, and balance herself as a sign of genuine exhaustion and age.

The boy didn’t envision the view from her perspective because he was in his own mind living in frustration and angst.

Now, if he had taken the time to contemplate life in her shoes, he may have actually felt very different about the situation entirely.

He may have felt more comfortable in his cozy chair. He may have been more grateful that his ‘long, hard day’ involved traveling for pleasure and not working to survive.

This is something we always need to remind ourselves.

As you saw, my mind was angered and agitated by the most minute details from the moment I climbed upon this bus. But once you take a step back and look through another person’s lens, yours becomes a bit sharper and shinier.

2. A little bit goes a long way

Just the tiniest move made the biggest difference.

If you were to weigh out the sacrifice and benefit of this setting it would show that a tiny bit goes a long way.

It did not take much for me to change the environment. You can even look at it as though I was making a good decision for my own well being, as I was tired of sitting down. Regardless of how small the sacrifice was for me, it meant the world to this woman.

We have all felt that state of fatigue where you would give absolutely anything to be able to rest and close your eyes. In those moments of dire need, when a stranger comes along to help you, it seems as though they have just changed your entire life.

It seems as though they just gave you their entire world, when in fact, it was not such a compromise for the other party at all.

When you are lost and are in need of direction, it doesn’t take too much effort on the side of the stranger, but once you are directed on that right path, it makes all the difference in the world for you.

3. Mind battles are exhaustive and a waste of energy

As I observed my mind throughout my first 5 minutes on this bus, I realized,

“Wow, you are quite ridiculous…”

- He is taking up MY space.

- He is probably doing this on purpose.

- If I move my arm and nudge him a bit then he’ll get the hint.

- Put up a barrier. Don’t let them take up any more space.

Who the hell am I?

What a strange battle that is? A fight within myself with another man who was seated contently, not even phased by this.

Sometimes we create these quarrels in our heads. We get so overcome with anger, hurt, or annoyance. We play out arguments in our head and imagine what the other person is thinking.

More often than not, the other person isn’t. They are thinking about something going on in their own mind, probably not the slightest bit related.

Take traffic for example..

How many people do you know who let traffic ruin their days?

They scream and cuss over the person passing them by or the car who just cut them off. Their minds become overly disturbed by this overly perpetuated moment, while the other driver continues on singing their favorite song with the wind blowing their hair.

Who won the battle?

4. Cultural thoughts define our happiness

I took a class once on cultural differences. It was in the business school so it had a good amount to deal with how culture affects relationships and in turn, business.

We studied countries that are individualistic versus countries that are collective.

I thrived in this class. I was so very fascinated by every cultural difference and how it affected the way these populations function independently and also interdependently.

Growing up in a very individualized society, we feel that personal space is something you own. You do things on your own.

Your success is yours, as are your failures.

You make your own money. You are entitled to your own personal space and nobody should interfere with that.

Touching is just not the most accepted gesture between people in an individualized society.

One of the main reasons I have fallen in love with these south Asian cultures, is the togetherness. At first, I was amazed by the ‘collective unit’ lifestyle.

I could not imagine life where you and your family were one.

Their money was your money. Your money was their money. You worked, not for you, but for your grandmother, cousin, brother, and mother.

Friends walk around holding hands. They lay on each other and speak within inches of their companions. There are no boundaries.

Despite the fact that I’ve lived amongst this, I still find that my brain is programmed into this individualistic way of living. It bothers me to my core but it will just take a bit of reprogramming until I naturally live without these boundaries.

5. As individuals, we have so much power over any given scenario

You have the power to make somebody’s day.

You have the power to alter somebody’s state of being.

It just takes that small bit of courage to make the first step.

It takes observing and recognizing the problem at hand to be able to step up and take the plunge.

It can be as small as helping the woman with a baby carry her groceries to the car. It just takes that decision to go walk up and do it.

I could have just sat for the following hour and a half watching this older Sri Lankan woman stand miserably above this suffering boy or I could have just made the decision not to.

The power is in your hands to make change. You just have to do it. No matter how small the decision is, just step up and make it happen.

If you are into the words I’ve placed in front of you hit the heart at the bottom! And please come follow me along on this journey! : for travel stories & some photos of humanity around this world