Friday, May 3, 2013

Driving a car with empathy - guest post

Thinking about empathy and thinking about seeing things from another’s perspective, it occurred to me that I actually find myself in both perspectives on a regular basis. I’m talking about tailgating. I do it often AND I find it often done to me. The thing that surprised me once I started paying attention was how radically different my mindset was depending which end I was on.

When I’m tailgating, I’m invariably thinking about how inconsiderate this guy in front of me is for blocking up the road. Doesn’t he know I have somewhere to be? Can’t he move over (or pull over on a one lane road)? Can’t he speed up? What the heck is his problem? Sometimes I flash my lights. Sometimes I’ll zoom around on the right. Sometimes, as I’m passing, I’ll glare over at the other driver, communicating my disapproval. Does he think he owns the road? That he can set the pace for everybody?

When I’m being tailgated, I’m invariably thinking about what a jerk this guy is. Why does he have to be so close like that? Can’t he go around me? Can’t he relax a bit? He’s being dangerous and rude. Sometimes to get a tailgater away from me I’ll intentionally slow down. Like waaaay down. That’ll show ‘em. Does he think he owns the road?

See the problem? It’s really obvious once I lay it out like that. We tell ourselves these little stories about the world around us and it always revolves around US as the main character. But the truth is, EVERYONE is the main character. No one is more special than anyone else. The guy going slow has his story and the guy going fast has his story and neither one is more important. Point of fact I realized that I’m BOTH guys depending on what day it is and where I’m going and what sort of mood I’m in.

Since having this realization, I try to deliberately remind myself of the OTHER story, which ever it is. So when I start tailgating someone I remind myself of how I feel when I’m being tailgated. I realize that I’m being a jerk. I’m making him nervous. If he doesn’t get out of my way in the first few seconds then likely he’s not going to and I should back off. Likewise, when I’m being tailgated I realize that here too I might be the jerk. If there is room for me to get out of the way then I should do so. I’ve even pulled over on one-lane roads to let people pass.

It’s weird to think about being two people at once, in this case the slow guy in front and the fast guy behind, but sometimes I think it’s what this world needs.

Thanks to my husband for this article - Janet


Anonymous said...

i have found myself in both positions, as you said.
i never realized how dangerous tailgating is until i went to see my son graduate from bootcamp in Texas. my aunt lived close by, so i stayed with her, and she accompanied me. she drove, and i was scared to death. she was literally on the person in front of hers' bumper. i kept thinking to myself, if this person ahead stops, we'll have no room to stop.
finally, i had to say something to her and she admitted that she knew she tailgated, and everyone who ever drove with her told her so. it's just a natural thing for her-she's not in any hurry. i think sometimes the only way to stop suc behavior is to actually get into an accident, in order to appreciate the carelessness and unsafe practice of tailgating.
my mom used to say, "yeah-eveyone one's in a hurry-to get to the hospital" she was a nurse so i'm sure she saw her fair share of accident cases.
unless you have the experience of hitting the car in front of you because they stopped short, for whatever reason-a deer, a dog running into the road, whatever, you don't quite comprehend what this practice may lead to.
my best to you,

Anonymous said...

A very thoughtful article and you are so all depends on which end you are at.

Thanks for a great post. I really like your blog.

Francine Larson

Janet said...

Thanks for the great article!

I feel that that keeping the other person in mind is harder when I'm caught up in an emotion; such as anger or frustration.