Last week, we got a snow fall that closed school for a day. During the day, road crews cleared the roads. Even though we live in a pretty rural area, most of the roads were safely passable by the afternoon. As is often the case here in central Indiana, the temperature stayed below freezing for several days and the winds blew pretty steadily. For those of you that don't live in snow country, this means that many roads, especially the back roads, began to get drifts in spots.
As I took my daughter to school on Monday of this week, I got the opportunity to meet a car in a place partially covered by a drift on the other car's side of the road. Since I have been in the other driver's position, encountering a snow drift on my side of the road while the other driver has basically clear pavement, I was aware that they were in a position where they might feel a little out of control. In fact, I have had the experience of a draft from oncoming traffic pulling my car into a spin. (An exciting experience I must say, and probably the object of another post on a different day.)
Knowing their possible concerns, I slowed as I approached even though my side of the road was almost totally clear. I wasn't sure how they might react to suddenly hitting snow or how my draft might affect them if I was going too fast as we passed.
Since my oldest daughter is now driving, I immediately thought of the driving lessons that this situation presented and what we could have discussed if she had been with me on this particular day. I thought how I could speak with her about the need to look ahead, to anticipate problems, and to take action based on that anticipation.
Immediately, I saw a connection to conflict resolution, communication, and leadership.
There are many times when we encounter other people who are under stress, tired, hungry, or frustrated. Often their emotional or physical state has nothing to do with us. We might be in a great place emotionally or physically in comparison to them. In those cases, we need to “slow down” and understand how their situation or our approach to their situation might cause an adverse response from them.
Sometimes, when I am feeling great, I fail to see the other person's challenge and I wonder why they are so difficult, confrontational, and aggressive in their response to me. After all, I'm on “dry pavement” and I should be able to pass them at full speed. In these moments, I tend to get frustrated with the other person.
Other times, I'm “on my game” and I see that they are simply responding from a stressor that has nothing to do with me, and I slow down to give them the space they need to deal with their situation. In those cases, I don't get frustrated with them because I understand their situation.
Since I'm not always on my game, I was glad to get the reminder. It has helped me to keep myself in check this week.
What about you, do you slow down when you interact with others so that they have the time to deal with their situation. If not, I would encourage you to give the idea some thought.