At the train station, a customer trembled with rage as he tried to get the flex return tickets he knew were available. The fellow behind the counter didn't understand how to make the transaction.
So the customer stood at the window for half an hour as he struggled to get the ticket man to understand and do what he wanted. He got frustrated. He shouted. Other ticket agents came over to calm the customer down. As the customer tried to explain to them, he saw a middle-aged woman walk up to the ticket window he had vacated.
"I need a flex return," she said.
"I don't know how to do that," said the man behind the counter, much as he had done with his earlier customer.
"What do you do when you're asked for unfamiliar transactions?" she asked.
"I'm supposed to look them up on this sheet." The young fellow waved a sheet of paper he'd tried to read while his earlier customer was shouting.
"Well, go ahead," said the woman.
"I don't read very well." He pointed to the lines on the chart and moved his lips as he struggled to understand. In about two minutes, he found the flex return charge method. The woman had not spoken a single word as he worked.
The first customer couldn't hear the entire exchange but he understood that the second patron was getting what she wanted. After she was done, he approached her.
"How did you get him to do that?" He waved in the direction of the ticket desk.
"I explained what I wanted. I'm in a hurry too, you know. You'll have to walk with me if you want to talk."
"But he's stupid!" The man fell in beside her. "How did you get him to understand?"
"I saw a part of what happened to you. You showed contempt for his slowness and made him nervous. But I could tell he wanted to help."
"He kept dropping things! And he couldn't read!"
"He got flustered by your shouting. If you had remained calm and tried to see things from his perspective, you would have gotten your ticket in about two minutes, the way I did."