Leave Room for Mistakes

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You know those jerk drivers who do something wrong, blame you, and get confrontational? They are THE WORST. I was one of those drivers yesterday.

I wasn’t even going to write about it because I’m so embarrassed. But I remembered that this Blog is mostly for my sons, and it’s my job to train them to not be idiots. Sometimes one of the best ways to do that is to provide an example of what not to do.

I was out driving yesterday, and noticed a car coming toward the main road I was on from a side street. They stopped briefly at the intersection, and then started to turn out, right in front of me! Had I not slowed down I might have hit them.

It annoyed me. I don’t know why. I’m rarely annoyed. But it stirred some primal anger deep in my core and brought out the worst in me.

First I slowed down, put up both my hands in a “what do you think you’re doing” gesture, and mouthed “what the hell”. I’m not being cute. That’s literally what I did. No middle fingers and F bombs. At this point I’m still on the rails.

But then …. oh man… I continued driving, slowed down and stopped right in front of their car, blocking traffic, and gave them a hard menacing stare. I picked a fight, in the most confrontational, dramatic, escalating, childish, and potentially dangerous way.

To his credit, the other driver just gave me a frustrated “fine, point made, GO” gesture. He didn’t escalate it thank God.

5 second later I realized my turn signal was on.

In case you missed the significance of that, I was signaling that I was going to turn off the main road, the same road the other driver was coming from. So by all rights, he should have been totally safe to stop and immediately go. In his mind I was going to turn. I wasn’t driving especially fast, so it would have been easy for him to assume I was turning.

So…. not only did I signal improperly, but then I blamed someone else and acted in a shameful manner. I’m so embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

Here’s the lesson behind all of this: I didn’t leave any room to be wrong.

I was SO sure I was in the right. So sure I knew all the facts, and that my interpretation was correct. I didn’t question anything. I didn’t take time to evaluate. I judged the situation, judged it wrong, and acted like a jerk. And it’s too late to apologize.

And worse…this is a lesson I’ve really focused on in the past few years. It occasionally was a problem for me at work. Someone would say or do something I didn’t like, or not do something they were supposed to – and I would too quickly assume I knew the facts and head into the situation with the wrong assumptions.

It all comes down to assuming positive intent and asking questions. Assume people are innocent, even if your eyes and ears or other people tell you otherwise. Then ask questions with an open mind.

All of that takes some time. You gotta slow it down. You need to leave room so you can be wrong. And in doing so, you’ll find out that sometimes things aren’t what they appear, and you can avoid being a jerk.

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