On of our network members, Shabbir Latif, wrote this reflection about putting emotional intelligence into action:


I live in San Jose and work in Soledad (90 miles) away where I rent a room for four days during week. When I first started working in Soledad, I used to go swimming at a 24 Hrs Fitness center in Salinas, about 25miles away. I have been swimming regularly since when I was a kid and this 25 miles drive was acceptable.

During my workout, I swim different strokes, including butterfly. One day as I was swimming butterfly, I was stopped by a lady, she said it was against pool etiquette to swim butterfly. I was aghast, I thought, “What does she mean against pool etiquette. I have been swimming all my life and never heard of any such claim!” The first couple of times I switched to a different stroke. When this happened more than twice, I decided that I had enough. I used to swim butterfly three-quarters of the way in my set. The lady entered the pool about that time.

One day before I started my swim, I asked people around if they mind my swimming butterfly. Everybody I asked responded in negative. One person even said not to worry about that lady, “She complains all the time.” That day when I was stopped by the lady once more, I told her that I had asked everybody and nobody has any problem; so I don’t see any problem and just continued swimming butterfly. The lady shouted “#%@x you” at me, when I left the pool. Obviously this shook me up even more.

While I was showering I started thinking, “Hey I am facilitating groups on anger management and conflict resolution, what am I doing? I will be thinking about this problem when ever I come here, and won’t be at peace until it is resolved.” So after my shower, I put my swimsuit on and returned to the pool. The lady had a waist-float and was walking back and forth in the pool. I went straight to her and calmly said, “Excuse me lady, there are enough people fighting in this world; we both come here for our peace of mind so let us resolve this problem. I can see you are bothered by my swimming butterfly.”

At first she was still hostile and said she cannot stop from her work out. I got into the pool and started following her while I was talking. After I acknowledge her problem, she agreed and said that I was right, there are two many wars. She explained that she didn’t want to have her hair wet and butterfly created lots of waves. I asked her what day, what time she was coming and that I was coming one day a week and I am willing to accommodate her schedule. Her anger went away and she started advising me that I should swim more often and one day was not enough. In any case, she ended up by stating, I need not worry, there won’t be any problem any more, and that I don’t need to adjust my schedule. We left after knowing ourselves on first name bases.

I didn’t see the lady anymore for several weeks. One day I was late and I met her entering the facility while I was leaving. She greeted me and commented that I was late. I told her that I work in Soledad and sometimes get out late from work. She exclaimed why I was coming all the way here when there a beautiful pool in Soledad. I couldn’t believe her. She said she was a real estate agent and she is sure. Upon checking I discovered that there is pool five minutes from the room I am renting and the Olympic size pool is much more beautiful facility than the little pool at 24 Hrs Fitness.

Just before this incident, I had read, Unlikely Teachers: Finding hidden gifts in daily conflicts by Judi Ringer. I learned my lesson experientially. Judy is an Aikido Grand Master and she says every opponent on the mat has something for us to teach. She continues, “You are practicing Aikido whenever you listen with curiosity to an opposing view or search for mutual understanding, respect, and purpose. She quotes Einstein, “From discourse, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

Now I not just know about this, I know it. I hope you get a chance to experience this too.

Be in Peace and Grow!

Shabbir M. Latif, M.S. Therapeutic Recreation, CTRS. Xtra-assist Consulting;
[email protected] Six Seconds Certified EQ Associate Electrical Engineer, Ph.D.

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