It was a hot summer night. I was on my way home from a long day at the office. I had my windows rolled down, enjoying the cool evening air. Making my way up a hill in a residential area I couldn’t miss the cement truck moving toward me on the other side of the road. The driver seemed to be making a right hand turn into a parking lot. I continued to slowly make my way up the street, not realizing he was trying to back up into a construction lot on my side of the street – and in the process cut across my path. To let me know what he was trying to do he yelled out his window for me to “f—king stop!” I meekly mouthed something like “hey, there’s no need for that kind of language.” I could feel my face flush. In shock I let him finish his maneuver and continued on, for some reason feeling ashamed.
This is key in mindful communication: staying open to listening to the other side of the story, honoring yourself and the other person, and working to find the common ground between the two sides
I guess I could have yelled something back, but I felt too embarrassed. However my embarrassment quickly turned to rage at being “scolded” in public. Mindful of my mounting anger, I took a few deep breathes and surveyed my options. I could:
a. Turn around, find the driver, and toss some f-bombs back at him
b. get my husband to do the above (which would never happen, he hates confrontation)
c. do nothing and take on the driver’s bad mood, or
d. practice mindful breathing, calm my nervous system and respond in an assertive but fair manner.
When I got home I gave my family the short version of what happened and let them know I needed to go upstairs to have a private melt-down. Once I regained my composure, I went strait to my computer to look up the name of the construction company (which I was memorizing as the guy cut in front of me). I sent off an email to the company that explained the situation, and my unhappiness with the driver’s mode of directing traffic.
However, I was mindful of the fact that the driver was a human being. I thought to myself, what had happened to him earlier in the day to get him in such a state of agitation? Was he having trouble at home? Money problems? I also forced myself to be aware of what was going on with me. I felt shamed. My response to the driver’s anger was to feel belittled and stupid. Owning that response as my own stuff helped me to voice my displeasure over the incident without causing more suffering.
No matter how flat the pancake there’s always two sides. I tried to see my side of the story as well as the truck driver’s side. This is key in mindful communication. Staying open to listening to the other side of the story, honoring yourself and the other person, and trying to find the connection between the two sides. Taking these mindful steps can change road rage and other heated exchanges into a chance to grow and learn.
Do you need to have a difficult conversation with someone? Take a look at our worksheet on mindful communication.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!