Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

Standing in line is a wonderful opportunity for connection

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“I choose the wrong lane. The other lane is way faster.”

I hear the woman behind me in line for the airport security check sigh deeply. She clearly wants a response. The 100 people around us remain silent.

She tries again “What’s wrong with this lane? We’re not moving at all.” Another sigh, a bit louder. Still no response.

“I’ll miss my plane!”, she says angrily and anxiously.

bildeI get irritated. What does she want me to do? Push the person in front of me? Yell at the staff to work faster?

Then somehow I remember my commitment to work on proactivity. To create a space between the stimulus and my response. I ask myself how I might want to respond: from my reactive annoyance? Or from my most empathetic and compassionate self?

I pause to notice my breath, a simple practice to remind me to come back to the present moment. This woman wants support and maybe understanding for her anxiety. She might want the people ahead of her to let her go by. That certainly would speed up her security process. I can be the first one to offer my place. I turn around and see the face of an anxious and tired woman. “You’re scared to miss your plane?” “Yes, I only have an hour.” “You want to go in front of me?” “Yes” she says with a deep sigh. I can see her relief. Someone understands her predicament and wants to help.

And in her relief, I see a woman, not an annoyance. I have transformed my enemy image with compassion.  She is a human being with the same needs and feelings that I have, someone with whom I might enjoy more, not less, connection.

And so we connect! I discover she is also Dutch. We switch to our native language to add more comfort and connection. In no time we form a group of five people talking about our own languages (English, Dutch, German and Spanish) with big smiles on our faces.

And then, all of a sudden we’re not standing in line, we are a hub of connection. We’re almost disappointed, when we’re done with security and go our separate ways.

That’s the result of proactivity: more connection and joy.

I feel deeply satisfied and inspired.


You want help to practice proactivity? Contact me, 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session.

Thank you, David Nayer, for your willingness to edit this post last minute.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Standing in line is a wonderful opportunity for connection

  1. Great reaction, Elly! Proud of you. The twist at the end of your story is wonderfull! When you really connect time flies. Miss you, lots of love from Haarlem, The Netherlands and from Akkum, Friesland

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    • Hi Hanneke, thanks for reading and liking my post. I was proud of myself too. It is a relief to pause and self-connect, before I react. It creates more space for how I want to show up, which helps with my sense of integrity. See you in July!

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