Lessons from Road Rage

So, I’m a very calm person. Very few people have seen me angry – ever. I had an incident recently, that when I shared with people was generally met with disbelief. The way I reacted taught me quite a bit about not just myself, but how people in general deal with stressful situations. The most important lesson is how I need to seek to understand others.

It started when I had to deal with a number of ‘poor choices’ other drivers were making. I generally just shake my head or mutter under my breath, but always try to keep in mind that people are people, and I have no idea what they are dealing with. However, one incident that day really sent me over the edge. I was in a parking lot in front of a box store, and I saw a couple of very young boys about to cross from the sidewalk in front of the stores into the parking lot. I stopped, not too suddenly; but the young woman behind me started honking. Well, I couldn’t believe that she either couldn’t see the kids, or wouldn’t stop to think for 2 seconds about why I might be stopping. My patience for her dissipated immediately and I am embarrassed to admit that, to put it bluntly, gave her the finger.
After the kids crossed in front of me, I kept driving, but was very upset with her lack of patience. As we continued through the parking lot, she remained behind me. When I pulled up to the stop sign to pull out onto the street, I looked in my mirror and she was checking her cell phone – All patience was gone!

I put my emergency brake on and jumped out of my car to give her a piece of my mind. I was angry and she needed to know what I thought of her. Well, to my disbelief, she wouldn’t roll her window down so I could tell her. I finally just signaled to her to not use her cell phone, and stormed back to my car and drove off.

photo by Bobby Hidy, via Flickr Creative Commons

photo by Bobby Hidy, via Flickr Creative Commons

It took me about a minute to start feeling really stupid about what I had done. Once I had totally settled down I started thinking about the poor example I had been to my two sons who were in the car with me. I talked to them about it, and put up a public apology in FaceBook, as I had no way of apologizing to the young woman.

As I think back on the incident, I am reminded of the times I have to deal with angry students or parents. My first reaction is usually to try to reason with them. And being a generally long-suffering person, I find it difficult to empathize with people in that state. My own reaction to this incident has given me a bit of a view of what others go through. When someone is upset, they need time to calm down before they can be reasoned with. I need to be patient during that time.

As leaders in schools we really need to model patience and understanding, a trait which I think I usually do very well. Obviously, though I’m not totally there yet, and am continually learning. It’s great that we can all learn from our own mistakes.

Darryl Propp

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