A Subway incident that will make you better at Relationships|Story no. 1/101

Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) has shared an experience he had on a subway in New York.

I remember a mini-Paradigm Shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.

De-briefing of this story

How quickly we judge others! How quickly we make up our minds about a person! Because of this we cannot know the real truth. But when we hear someone’s real story, the truth behind who they are, and where they’ve come from, and what they’ve experienced – we can understand and appreciate them better. Therefore let us create a paradigm shift of listening to others before judging them.

Time required to Share this story (with de-briefing) – less than 5 Minutes

“A Subway incident that will make you better at Relationships” can be used to share importance of

  1. Listening to others
  2. Stop judging
  3. Mind-set shift


From the book – “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey


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44 thoughts on “A Subway incident that will make you better at Relationships|Story no. 1/101

  1. An apt story to make us change from
    “I,MY, MINE Minset to
    Proud of ourselfs.

    1. You summarized the entire learning from this story in your comment. Thank you for doing that.
      Yes, listening with our heart will make us a better Human. Its good to be proud of yourself when you listen with empathy.

    1. Thank you Karan for your kind words.
      As you are reading our stories, you are also a part of this “101 stories initiative.” Its your support that is making this initiative a success.

  2. I totally agree and have experienced , how deep listening and being nonjudgmental helps in building relationships stronger! Thanks Rupak for sharing this beautiful piece!

    1. Thank you Sunila for reading and sharing your experience.
      Deep listening and being non-judgmental are the must requirement for long lasting relationships.

  3. Brilliant share. Have read the book about 14 years ago. Yet, their was freshness; this time I read as trainer.

    1. That’s so true Ambuj, when we read same things after some time – we find more depth in it.
      The reading material is same, but we change. With time – we get more experience and knowledge, hence we can understand it better.

  4. Refreshed my memories of the book. And a very apt way to keep this story in ur pocket. Thanks for ur efforts!!

    1. I am glad Mr. Patil that this story could help you to be more sensitive.
      I really hope that upcoming 100 stories do that too.

  5. The story a day is a very nice concept. This story i shared in several groups as also in today’s conversation with my son i narrated this story…
    yes sometimes we people do frame our opinion based on opposite persons intial approach and attitude and behaviour or even sometimes we build our opinion based on the clothes or appeareance of the person…

    1. I am very happy that you shared it with everyone including your son. That’s the objective of this “101 Stories initiative” – not only to make us a better human but also to share and help others grow.
      I really hope that upcoming 100 stories do the same for you.

  6. Brilliant Share…long back ..dont know exact years..read this book..Refresh..conclusions..First understand then come on final decision…Thanks Rupak ji..nice n appreciate your efforts..

    1. Thank you Mr. Chothani for reading it.
      You concluded the story nicely – first understand and then come to final decisions – Thank you for doing that

  7. Rupak – who else can do this more effectively – you have given in a powerful nutshell which might sometimes take a whole day workshop!
    And Am sure Stephen Covey will be happy to see his best impressions and trails
    Kudos Buddy

    1. Thank you so much Shiva for your kind words.
      I am just the messenger – Stephen Covey will be more happy with you all, as you are applying the lessons from this story.

  8. Nicely way to cover the story, it really helps to revise the topics in the book. Also helpful for those who may not find time to read books daily. These stories will help them understand the contents of the Book. Keep doing a good Job! I am impressed.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and motivating words. I am happy that these stories can add value in your life.

  9. Thank you Rupak for sharing this story. I have read the book but reading this story again and again gives lots of paradigm shift everytime. Looking forward to reading such stories that will help me grow and be a good human being. Thanks once again.

    1. I am glad that this story could make a difference in your life.
      You will definitely learn a lot from our remaining stories.

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