Your road rage can build trying to get to and from work. It’s a double edged pain. Even those of you who work from home you still have to fight through traffic to get to meetings, dropping your kids off or catching a plane. You can’t escape the car culture that we live in. We are dependent on cars. Maybe one day we can sit in hydrogen powered pods that take us to our destination as we play with our iPhones, but for now we are stuck with driving our cars.
I’m writing about road rage because of my own issues with my commute. I used to get really pissed off at anyone who didn’t match my style of driving. It was pretty sad really. The rage can come on fast. Sometimes I don’t even notice it and all of a sudden I’m screaming. This doesn’t happen very often anymore because I can offset these feelings quickly, but it took one particular reframe to make it happen.
I researched some statistics and found some cool ones. This one is a bit old, but one of my favorites:
“A 1995 study performed by the Road Safety Unit of the Automobile Association of Great Britain found that 90 percent of the drivers surveyed had experienced "road rage" incidents during the preceding 12 months. In this study, 60 percent of drivers admitted to losing their tempers behind the wheel during the previous year, and one percent claimed they had been physically assaulted by another motorist.” from AAA Foundation for Driver’s Safety
You face this rage probably every time you get in the car. Just think of how many people you pass to and from work each week. If you live in a city like I do, it’s easily in the thousands. There are plenty of different kinds of drivers to spark your rage.
I finally had enough with my anger when I lashed out screaming obscenities at an older lady. As I stared down and passed by this older lady, I realized I was way out of line.
I couldn’t believe that I let my anger take over like that. All she was doing was driving 5 miles below the speed limit. She wasn’t kicking puppies for fun, she was just driving the way she felt safe.
After I got home I realized that the older lady was probably someone’s grandmother. How would I feel if my grandmother was yelled at by some guy because he was late to work?
I vowed to change my ways.
To change your perspective takes practice. You can’t just turn off the little anger switch every time you are commuting to work. You’ve got to work with these feelings, slowly massaging your way to a more gentle and happier driver.
What you can do is use a simple technique that encourages you to let go of your anger and bring yourself back to an emotional center.
As you know my anger had me lashing out at an old lady, which I realized could have been my grandmother. So I used this information to keep my anger in check.
I realized that thinking of each person as my grandmother I could relax my anger and keep myself emotionally grounded.
Next time I felt anxious to get to work, a meeting or the airport and I was about to lash out I imagined my grandmother behind the wheel. It nipped my anger in the bud. I stopped letting my anger take over.
Even if it’s not an old lady, I realize that every person is just trying to do what they feel is right. They all have friends and family that care for them. Even if it’s some crazy dude with a long beard, he might be the coolest dad to his two son’s. Each person has an inner grandmother (AKA their caring side). I just try to visualize the person as a caring old grandmother who fusses over her grandchildren when I’m feeling road rage come on.
Your road rage usually comes from a place of frustration. You don’t want to deal with your boss or you don’t want to work on a certain project. The issue is not some jerk of a guy. It’s how you let yourself feel about this guy. This issue is for another post but know that you can only deal with the situation in that moment.
Your stress can hold you back from enjoying your co-workers or even send you to the emergency ward, so it’s your job to set up your commute so you are optimally happy when you walk in the door. It’s a lot easier to impress a coaching client when I show up calm, happy and centered.
Who can you imagine the other drive who is pushing your anger over the edge? (e.g. grandmother, 2nd grade teacher, old neighbor down the street)
How can you remind yourself to practice this concept before you commute to work? (i.e. write yourself a note and stick it to your radio.)
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Image courtesy of PDXdj