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Lessons in a Traffic Jam

This may be a funny post to some, it may seem ridiculous, but sometimes lessons come to us in unusual places.

Stay with me...

Last week I was driving to an appointment in Los Angeles. I been lucky enough to work from home during this pandemic. My daily commute is non-existent, and I usually only go out for a few errands to the grocery store. Needless to say, I don't experience traffic much anymore (almost crazy to think of this now). So as I was headed out to my appointment, not in a particular rush, I hit some local traffic due to road construction. It was morning so I'm sure many folks were on their way to work (I remember that hurried, bustled routine).

As I approached a lane closure and began to merge two cars refused to let me in. They tailgated and blocked any room to merge so I had to wait and let them pass. Was I frustrated by this? Absolutely! I didn't understand why anyone would do that for a simple merge. When I pulled up to the next light I was next to one of the drivers that wouldn't let me merge. This person looked over at me and flipped me off angrily. Have I been flipped off driving before, of course! It's it annoying, frustrating, angering? Yes. I looked over and exclaimed that I was just trying to merge, but then stopped and decided this was futile. I was letting myself get so stressed out trying to convince someone else what my intentions were (with our windows up mind you), so I stopped, closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths telling myself to just let it go.

As I drove away I thought about this small annoyance that so many of us have likely experienced. Was there something here I needed to see or acknowledge? Why was I so angry? Why was that other person so angry? And then I received the lesson: Assume Positive Intent.

How often do we go through life assuming that others are out to get us, trying to hurt our feelings, or acting out of mal intent? Are there some situations where someone is being toxic and trying to sabotage others? I'm sure there are. But what I realized is that most of the time, most people, are just trying to do what they think is right, even if we can't see it that way in the moment.

In my traffic example, if I step back, that other driver likely thought I was trying to get in front of everyone and not waiting my turn. They were defending all the people in traffic and standing up to an inconsiderate driver who refused to wait their turn. We've all been there before, right? In my case, I was just trying to merge as the lane ended, and not seeking to get to the front of any line. If we seek to see from other's perspectives and points of view, and assume positive intent, how would we interact differently?

Next week, as you're going about your day, interacting with people in all situations, try assuming positive intent. How does it change your perspective? How does it change your interactions?

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