lessons from driving | do you beep your horn?

The last time I beeped my car horn (other than the friendly little beeps to stop someone from reversing into you) was about 3 months after I got my licence. 

I was 18 years old and driving with my Dad to the local shops. A car was doing dumb things in the carpark – who knows what – they were in my way and not indicating any plans to get out of it. So I beeped. 

My dad told me off. I tried to defend myself with the usual stuff about the other driver being irresponsible or inconsiderate or incompetent. But he pushed back by asking, “but what will it do for them?”

Well, of course my hope was that it would reveal to them the error of their ways and lead them to be a more diligent, thoughtful driver in future. But even as I said it, the unlikelihood of that happening became clear. 

He said I would just make them angry, defensive, frustrated or stressed. And what is that going to mean for them? For the way they’ll drive out of here? For the attitude they’ll take into the rest of their day? For how they’ll drive or speak to their kids or act on the sporting field or speak to the sales assistant? 

Good questions right?

So, I have never beeped in aggression or frustration since.

That resolve was added to by the fact that when people beep at me in traffic I have been known to cry – like actually. I would never drive to be intentionally annoying and so I feel like they’ve misunderstood what I was doing – I want to pull over and explain myself to them. Or I have made an honest mistake and I am traumatised to have made someone mad. I need a lighted sign that says “sorry” so I can switch it on as they drive past.  

My resolve has been further added to as I’ve observed the high level of stress and aggression on the road (manifested in unbelievable and terrifying stories of road rage related violence) and the speed at which people can be prompted to frustration or anger. There appears to be a lot of people who live very near the edge of ignition and only need the smallest spark to erupt in flames. 

Ultimately, beeping at someone is unlikely to do anything positive. While it might satisfy my self-righteousness temporarily it hasn’t really contributed anything good to others or brought any real positive change to the world. 

How about you? Are you a beeper? To quote Dr Phil – “How’s that working for you?” 

becoming more patient | #1 a big picture perspective 

On the scale of zero to ‘please don’t make me wait for anything, ever’ – how patient are you? How patient would others say you are?

Patience is defined as

the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious

Waiting is not patience. Patience is about how you wait. Experiencing delays, problems and suffering doesn’t mean you’re a patient person – because we all experience those – the attitude with which you journey them is the determiner of patience. Doing things for a long time doesn’t mean you’re patient – it just means you’ve done things for a long time! Doing things without becoming annoyed or anxious is the key characteristic of patience. Our attitude, our grace, our tolerance, our peace and calm, our lack of reactivity, our persistence – these are all indicators of our degree of patience.

Relationships are where, simultaneously, our patience can be so profoundly tested and also where our patience is so intensely required. Impatient people make for unpleasant work colleagues, parents, partners and friends. Impatience expressed through frustration, snappiness, aggression, huffing and puffing or irritating repetitiveness (‘are we there yet?’) are killers of healthy relationships.

We all need to become more patient for our relationships to be positive and enjoyable.

As a quick thinker, speaker, mover, responder and decider, I constantly wrestle with impatience. I want everyone to move at my pace and sometimes do poorly at managing the lag time between when I get something and when others do … seriously, hurry up already!!!

TIP #1 – WE NEED A BIG PICTURE PERSPECTIVE! 

Often our impatience comes from being way too caught up in the moment to understand its significance (or lack of) in the big picture.

Like aggressively racing around someone in traffic only to be stopped beside the same car at the next traffic light. In the big picture of a trip to work, that car going a bit slower isn’t actually going to make us late. But our frustration in the moment can cause us to act irrationally or become unnecessarily emotional (and potentially make unsafe choices).

When children are learning to tie their shoe laces parents or teachers can become frustrated by the need to do it – ‘when are you going to get this yourself!?’. But there aren’t many adults who still need their parents or work mates to tie their shoes. They do get it. Keeping that in mind helps us to be more tolerant in the moment. This won’t be forever – even if it feels like it will.

So much of our intolerance and impatience is related to growth. We want others to get what we get; to know what we know and think like we think and respond like we do. But, often, they don’t have the same knowledge, wisdom, emotional maturity, life experience, perspective or skills and so are unable to respond the same way we would until they do.

When we zoom out our focus to see the big picture it grows our empathy and changes how we gauge others’ actions. Keeping the end in mind can drastically increase our grace, compassion and understanding in the now.

What do you think? How would keeping the big picture in mind shift your ability to be more tolerant and patient in your relationships?

Read more

Part 2 – wisdom over reaction

Part 3 – being others focussed

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #4: Great Expectations

All the Christmas-time commercials depict the most idyllic of family gatherings. The weather is always perfect, the table decorations are a work of art, the ham is larger than any home oven’s capacity to cook it and somehow the friends and family have all managed to coordinate their wardrobe perfectly!! Everyone is delighted with their gifts. Toddlers goo and gah in adorable reindeer ears (that stay on for more than 30 seconds!). The post-lunch cricket game is played by all in a manicured back yard. It seems almost too good to be true.

Probably because it is!

To start with, when is the weather ever perfect on a Christmas day in Melbourne?

The reality is that for many, even with the best intentions to the contrary, the family gathering can be a stress laden exercise that leaves you exhausted from the sheer effort of it all. And unfortunately for some, it can be downright painful! Many a family gathering ends in frustration or wounding and the angry car ride home where the question is raised, ‘why do we do that again?’

I think much of our disappointment in the reality of these gatherings can come down to expectations … unrealistic, unfulfilled, un-communicated or misaligned. Somehow what we anticipated the occasion to be sets us up for disappointment in what it actually is. Some thoughts to consider …

  • Communication is key to aligning your expectations with other family and friends (see blog #3 here). Be sure that you’ve thoroughly discussed what each of your events is to look like and help everyone be on the same page.
  • Presuming family will do family the same way is a recipe for disaster. The fact that siblings were raised in the same home/family does not mean they will all raise THEIR families the same way. Acknowledging that will go some way to having you accommodating the differences with a little more understanding.
  • Christmas gatherings are generally longer than any other social event you have throughout the year. For some, extended times of being social are actually quite tiring and it’s often toward the end of these that ‘tensions’ can arise. Know yourselves and your kids – don’t expect too much of energy levels and capacity for patience and tolerance.
  • Make the important things the important things. A ‘successful’ Christmas gathering is measured by the nature and quality of interactions and connections with people. That’s the important thing! Keep that in mind and it means that a flopped pav, a poorly received present or later-than-planned meal time really doesn’t have the power to ‘ruin’ your day.