The other day I was at the gym running on a treadmill. The gym was busy but not yet crowded. I was about 10 minutes into my 45 minute run when one of the many teenage girls there got on the contraption to my left (not sure what this machine is called but it's kind of like an elliptical that simulates running more... I digress.....)
She instantly began to yell across me to the treadmill two down from me, where her friend had been perched since prior to my arrival. "Oh, you were supposed to be on this treadmill (pointing to the one I am on)." She continues, loudly, for the next 15-20 minutes to whine about her friend being too far away from her, how difficult her workout is, how especially difficult is is without her friend right next to her. and on and on....
Despite my own Ipod making valiant efforts to block this noise, I hear her very clearly. The entire time.
During this time, I had opportunity to think about this situation. Initially, I was very very annoyed. Ok, even a little angry. But as she continued, with no apparent awareness of anyone else being in the room, being impacted by her comments, behaviors, I began to think about my own behavior... or rather what behavior I might react with. I thought through the many things I could have said, or done which would have made me seem just as young as this girl. Pretty quickly, I came to the conclusion that it is not my place to say or do anything.
Over the next few days, I've thought about this more. It is rarely my place to say something to "correct" some action another has done. I think too often people falsely assume that it's their role. Anger, hurt feelings, drama, and a whole host of other non-reinforcing behaviors usually ensue. Rarely does the offending behavior change.
My friend recently loaned me a book called "How full is your bucket." The basic premise of this book is to shape all interactions with others in attempts to "fill" their buckets. You do this with positive interactions (strengths based positive psychology approach), especially those that play to the strengths, desires, and talents of the recipient. Conversely, negative interaction dips into the person's bucket. One of the challenges issued in this book is to work to continually be a bucket filler rather than a bucket dipper.
The above situation was one were I could easily have been a bucket dipper. But I know that is not my place. What I failed to realize in that moment was that I also neglected to be a bucket filler. I could have easily moved to the treadmill to the right and allowed the girl's friend to move closer. Instead I did nothing.
At one time, I was accused of being a bucket dipper. While I am sure I have focused on the negative or said something less than kind, I do not believe myself to be a chronic bucket dipper. Rather, I am more a chronic bystander. I react the same way I did at the gym, ignoring the behavior, hoping it or she, in this case, will eventually go away.
I am issuing myself a challenge. This will become my place. Instead of continuing to be a bystander, saying or doing nothing, I will actively work to increase positive interactions with those I come in contact with.
By the way, that color looks really lovely on you!