Take this true story from Krish Dhanam, a member of Zig Ziglar’s motivational speaking organization:
Dhanam stood outside a hotel waiting for an airport shuttle bus, feeling flush with success from his business trip. The driver was late, so Dhanam decided to save a bit of time by putting his bags on the shuttle in advance.
Noting Dhanam’s brown skin and ethnic appearance, two fellow passengers mistook him for a baggage handler who couldn’t speak English. First, a woman beckoned him to load her bags, too. He obliged. Then, a man suggested the same thing. Again, Dhanam obliged. Instead of reacting in anger, he remembered Ziglar once telling him that in life, the lights are always on and the camera is always rolling.
As a representative of his company, Dhanam felt he needed to respond with dignity. Yelling at those people, he says, would have satisfied him more than anything he could imagine. (Dhanam points out that he’s an educated, hard-working, honest, tax-paying citizen ... just like a lot of baggage handlers.) Nonetheless, he chose to respond thoughtfully instead of blindly reacting to his feelings. With a smile, he extended his open palm to each fellow traveler and extracted nearly four bucks. What a country!
In the end, one of the passengers realized his error, saying, “I wish all my employees had your disposition.” And Dhanam was glad he’d kept a cool head, figuring that he’d come off in a much better light than the two passengers who’d been caught up in their own mistaken assumptions.
— Adapted from Top Performance: How to Develop Excellence in Yourself and Others, Zig Ziglar, Fleming H. Revell/Baker Book House Co.