Friday morning, I’m on my way to an appointment when a white sedan comes right up on my tail, then swerves into the adjacent lane, and swerves in front of me. I lean on my horn as the white sedan speeds off onto the freeway entrance ramp, continuing to swerve in and out of traffic. Later that morning, in an unrelated incident, a 68-year-old man was shot and killed in an act of road rage. It doesn’t matter who was at fault. The net result is that one person lost his life and another person’s life is ruined as he spends years in prison for the decisions he made. Two lives are wasted because they didn’t like the way the other was driving. That’s a sad example of weak emotional intelligence. It was petty and it ain’t worth it.
AAA estimates 8 out of 10 drivers exhibit some form of aggressive driving, which could include speeding, following too closely, swerving, blocking another driver, or cutting off other drivers, among other behaviors.
But this post isn’t about road rage.
I had a chance encounter with a 20-something man who was a service advisor at a car dealership. He’d been a gang member in another city. Today, however, he’s doing well as a member of law-abiding society. But this post isn’t about street gangs.
I asked him how he was able to get out of gang life alive. His answer applies to nearly all of us. He explained that he learned to keep his ego out of confrontations, to not worry about winning, and to walk away. He explained that, in his former life, if there were a conflict, there would likely be a murder. Someone was going to die. He realized the conflicts he was in weren’t worth dying for, nor were they worth prison time. He learned about the importance of emotional intelligence.
What about your conflicts? Do you let your ego take over? Do you need to win, no matter the cost?
When you’re out of the zone of conflict and thinking with your more rational mind, you might agree that most of the conflicts you’ll have in your life aren’t worth going to prison and they’re certainly not worth dying for. Frankly, they’re not even worth a rise in your blood pressure. Maybe it’s someone who sees politics differently from you, or religion, or society. Maybe you like cats and the other person likes dogs. Maybe you like scotch and the other person doesn’t drink. Or vice versa.
In my world of IT, we have something called DLLs. That stands for Dynamic Link Library, but I learned from a friend that there’s another definition of DLL that he uses to keep himself out of trouble when dealing with other people. For him, DLL stands for Drop it, leave it, let it go. In other words, when someone does something you don’t like, pause before you say or do anything. Take control of your emotions instead of letting them control you. When I was a kid, my parents taught me, when I got angry, to count to 10 before saying or doing anything. Somehow, I forgot that when it came to my car horn and people I perceive as bad drivers. It’s funny how anyone who drives slower than me is a moron and anyone who drives faster than me is a maniac. DLL is a great example of how to use emotional intelligence.
I’m from Seattle in Washington State. Deaths on our roads for 2021 were at a 20-year high due to speeding, aggressive driving, and distracted driving.
Today, I’m concentrating on driving less aggressively, on not letting other drivers know what I think, and using DLL in my driving. You know what, I’ve noticed that I feel better, I’m more relaxed, and maybe I can avoid being another highway statistic.
But, as I said, this post isn’t about road rage. What it’s really about awareness and intentionality with your emotions. I’m working on becoming more aware of those times when my ego gets in the way of good decisions. when my emotions might lead me to say or do something I later regret. When I’m more aware of what’s happening with my ego and my emotions, I can be more intentional about making better decisions, thinking about the long-term effects of my decisions, and whether that bad driver really needs to hear my horn!
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