Monthly Archives: March 2013

Coffee Conflict and the Bystander

One morning, I was at my local coffee shop doing some work. I sat at a table next to a wall across from the counter. The lines were typically long for a weekday morning, replete with the hustle and bustle of people waiting for their caffeine fix before going into work. There was one person in particular that seemed to be in an extreme rush, hurrying to even say his order. When the order came back, the drink seemed to have been inaccurate because the customer completely tore into the young looking cashier yelling about the failures of the cashier, the simplicity of the order, and the projection of future failure for the cashier. All the while, most people stopped, stood quietly, and after the disgruntled customer stormed out of the coffee shop, went back to their lives as if nothing ever happened.

More often than not, we are the bystanders in these situations. We are the ones who see these things happen in our many travels. We don’t realize it half the time, but those are the times where we have some of the most power. That power lies in the decision we make in that situation. We can easily let the situation unfold as it will, deciding that it isn’t any of our business or that we just don’t have the time to get involved and “sort out the mess” or “save someone”. The other side of that coin is that we can step in, bring some positivity into the situation, and say a kind word to the cashier that could change the trajectory of his or her day and the vibe in the entire store. It doesn’t take much effort, but the results can make all the difference in the world.

The next time you see something like that happen, think about the power you have as you watch this unfold. The role of the bystander is more powerful than you think.