A couple of days ago, I was the subject of road rage. It wasn’t pretty. Somebody called me a piece of sh*t. At least three times. And all because of his need to be right. But people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, so let me tell you the whole story.
I was doing a left-hand turn onto our local high street. It was a safe but assertive move. No risk of collision but a tightish fit so yes, perhaps a wee bit cheeky. Enough to warrant a quick honk — sure. But not enough to warrant what followed.
– Mindset expert Joan Moran shares 7 reasons you don’t need to be right all the time –
The man driving the car I didn’t quite cut off put his hand firmly on the horn and left it there … for at least a minute. A minute is a long time when you count it out in seconds. It’s especially long when you’re also being tailgated. If he’d have followed me any more closely he would have seen what I’d had for breakfast.
The only thing greater than this guy’s need to be right was his need for me to know it. But here’s the thing …
Sometimes I feel the need to be right, too.
Don’t we all?
As Angry Man honked and tailgated me, my instinct was to lighten up on the gas pedal and crawl at a comfortable but irritating 30 km/hour. (Did you just high-five me?) I’m not gonna lie; it felt AWESOME. And with a good friend in the passenger seat beside me, it made me feel clever and entertaining.
When room to overtake became available, I was certain he was going to pull up beside me and mouth expletives through the window but he kept on driving. I guess he was over it — but I wasn’t. So when he pulled into a parking spot without indicating I simply couldn’t resist.
I stopped my car next to his, rolled down my window and, leaning across my friend, politely yelled, “excuse me, sir, you forgot to indicate when you pulled over.” My wit was muffled by his verbal onslaught.
I felt good about myself for all of 30 seconds. And then I felt like a smug piece of poo. (Ironic given he’d just called me a piece of sh*t.)
Being smug is just so … smug!
How do you feel when you’ve been in the company of someone smug and smarmy? Like you want to take a shower, right?
Yet there I was, being that smug and smarmy person. Why? Because it felt easy. He (Angry Man) was the [insert rude word] in this scenario, and I was perfectly within my right to retaliate. Few would judge me in the retelling of this story, but that doesn’t make it ok.
At the end of the day, my retaliation — based utterly on my own need to be right — did nothing but antagonize an obviously already troubled individual. I’ll never know what his story was — work pressure, a cheating spouse, mental health issues — but I do know this: he was clearly troubled. For him to have acted the way he did, he must have been right on the edge when I pulled out in front of him; ready to let his rage loose as soon as an opportunity presented itself.
Now, before you think, “look at her being the bigger person and feeling sorry for him,” that’s not what’s happening here.
Should I have acted with compassion?
Sure, but I’m human, and living with compassion is a work in progress. As I see it at this stage in my personal development journey, Angry Man was mean, no matter how you slice it, and I don’t feel compelled to sympathise. But what about me?
Like I said, my response made me feel like poo and that’s no good for me. I was raised to be better than poo. I am better than poo! We all do it though; assert our rightness on others because being wrong rattles our sense of control, or threatens our self-esteem, or assures us that the hierarchical order is as it should be, e.g. I am the parent, I am the teacher, I am the boss … I am a good driver — therefore I am right.
And we can get so stuck on this need to be right, that we don’t notice that sick feeling in our bellies — the one that’s trying to tell us to back down. Instead, we just dial up our rightness. Argue louder. Fight harder. Honk longer. We do anything but listen to the little gremlin saying, ‘you might want to back down there, buddy. You’re starting to act like a smug piece of poo.”
I’m all for finding peace in my life. Feeling smug doesn’t feel peaceful and feeling compassion doesn’t always feel doable. So what’s one to do when confronted by Angry Man or angry child or angry employee? What’s one to do when one feels the need to be right but knows it will come to no good?
No, one doesn’t need to be wrong. One simply needs to be quiet. And that, friends, was a 908-word note to self. If you happened to get something out of it too, all the better.
Viv for today xo
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