The other afternoon, while filling up my car at a station on the Post Road in Scarsdale, I almost witnessed an accident. There were two vehicles that had a near miss. One had two young women in it and the other was being driven by an older man.
What appeared to happen is that the girls were pulling out of the gas station and wanted to drive across oncoming traffic to the opposite side of the road at the same time the man was proceeding down the road—and he had to inconveniently slam on his breaks to avoid the collision.
This near miss made a lot of noise, but luckily no one was hurt, until they decided to exchange words. As obscenities volleyed back and forth, they both refused to move their cars, and as traffic backed up around them for a few moments until they were done disparaging each others mothers, the cumulative honking of all the surrounding cars signaled hat it was time for them to move on.
I don’t know if it's the heat, the expensive gas, or the overall mood of people in Westchester these days, but I have seen individuals getting hot-headed this summer, everywhere! People behaving badly can be spotted in traffic, at some type of store, or even the sometimes-occurring and always embarrassing freak-out at a youth sporting event, and when that happens you never get to live it down. There are even a few guys around town that have earned lifetime bans at Little League and other youth activities.
Admittedly, I too used to get a little “over spirited” in conflicts with others, but over the past few years I have learned to put things in perspective. I would like to think that my evolution is based on years of experience and rational logic and not as the television commercials would like men my age to think—that it is low testosterone. Regardless of what the cause is, here are some strategies that I use when placed in these situations.
Breathe; nothing can clear your head better than taking a deep breath. There is something both physiological and primal about filling your lungs up with air. Taking in a deep breath lowers your blood pressure and counteracts your natural impulse to flight, or in this case fight. If you are not driving, it works great in conjunction with closing your eyes. Try it the next time you are being driven crazy at the short-staffed deli counter by that nice old lady buying a third of a pound of everything.
A moment of thought also helps a bunch. If you are a good chess player or even someone who just plays tic-tac-toe with your kids, being able to take a moment to think a few steps ahead gives you an advantage in any situation. They say that hindsight is always 20/20, but a little foresight may save the day, and even better, prevent you from saying or doing something stupid.
Lastly, and maybe the hardest for some is just be the bigger person. Whatever has brought on the confrontation that you may have just found yourself in, there is a good chance that the person that you are tangling with has a fair amount of their own stuff on their plate. More times than not, people living on the edge are primed to blow. Being able to just back down and acquiesce will allow you the strange satisfaction that you were able to rise above the situation.
As contrary to learned behavior as it may be, there is something fulfilling about having the grace to walk away from a conflict knowing that regardless of whether you were right or wrong you rose above it all. And when someone does try to escalate it, and flips you their middle finger just think to yourself, thats right, I am number ONE!