While driving my friends, I started changing into the right lane when my friends shouted, no no it’s a left here.
It’s very likely I misremember the next moments. But, I remember switching on my turn signal and then moving lanes in a way that inconvenienced the drivers behind me but wasn’t outright dangerous as everyone seemed to be stopped or slowing down for the red light. And honestly I was really uncomfortable doing this maneuver! But this is city driving.
After I pulled over to the left lane. The driver behind me pulled up to me and rolled down his window, clearly enraged at my poor driving decision. To the chagrin of my friends, I rolled my window down as I saw this as an opportunity for discomfort! This was my challenge: could I remain calm in the face of an enraged driver?
Immediately I apologized. But this dude wanted a confrontation. He was yelling at me non stop.
“Sorry? Shut up!!! You could have caused an accident!”
I told him he was 100% right and I should have been more aware. But he just kept yelling at me to shut up and so on and so forth.
It was really interesting. I’m not sure what he wanted from the interaction. I kept telling him he was right. But yet, he told me to shut up.
Outraged People Want You To Argue
Later, I made the connection to the lady who called me a bitch at the Whole Foods. When I apologized to her, she told me to mind my own businesses. Now I see that if someone is looking for an argument but you give them no fuel, they default to telling you to be quiet. The same thing happened with the lady on Facebook in this post.
In fact, I’m almost %100 sure that if I had yelled back at this guy, he would not have told me to shut up. I would have provided him what he wanted. If I was an asshole, that would justify his continued outrage. Surely, he enjoyed his outraged! Instead, I was nice and admitted to my mistake. So the only thing left to disagree with me on, was whether I should continue to speak at all. Hence, he told me to shut up.
What Else Did I Learn?
When you are kind and forgiving to difficult people, you act as a white canvas that illuminates their irrational behavior.
I was a little shaken but very very mildly. The challenges have built up my resilience to difficult people. In the past, I would have taken the confrontation personally. However, it’s so clear to me now that I did no wrong. This is just a pattern of behavior with difficult people.
While I may have made a bad driving decision, my intentions were good. In response, the enraged driver acted irrationally. As the stoics say, anger is always irrational. And punishment is only good in as much as it reforms behaviors.
But the man’s agenda was clearly not to reform me.
I have to remember not to criticize the man out of judgement, but only to learn from his lesson. He did a good thing because he taught me a lot about people. And I must remember that he too may have been acting out of character! Maybe I really did give him a scare! And so he acted out in fear. Maybe he had a new born in the back seat and is a new parent sensitive to the dangers of the world. Maybe he was trying protect other drivers but has poor people skills.
To some extent, I pity him. Clearly, he lost control, confused about what he wanted from me.
So let’s remember, difficult people are a gift. They have miserable people skills and terrible lives in order to teach us about the extremes of human behavior. By observing them we learn so much. And I hope one day they find happiness and calm.