Monday, May 20, 2019

Be willing to be wrong

Imagine the following scenario: you are an excellent driver (obviously). You are driving excellently to work. You are on a road that is two lanes in each direction, with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. Your superb navigation and execution skills have you purposefully driving in the left lane, not tailgating, at approximately 9.85 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, a rate generally accepted by local law enforcement types who seem to follow a “9 you’re fine, 10 you’re mine” rule. Things are going well. Suddenly, another driver is rapidly approaching from behind. He must be going 70. “In a 45!?!” you think. Next thing you know, he’s practically in your backseat.  

For a split second you think, “Just who does this guy think he is? I am an excellent driver, driving along at the fastest possible safe speed given the posted speed limit and I think I’m going to teach him a thing or two about patience,” but instead, you move over to the right lane to let him pass. A few moments later, you’re sitting there at the same red light. When the light turns green, however, the cars in his lane aren’t going fast enough for him, so he darts over into the right lane, right behind you, glued to you like a back pocket. He rides your bumper, just waiting for the first opportunity to dart back over to the left lane, ahead of the slow pack. 

As luck would have it, even though the right lane was faster out of the gate, the lead cars eventually catch up to one another, both deciding that 44 and 3/4 is just the right speed to drive side-by-side. Under normal circumstances, this would annoy you because, hey - there’s a lane for people who want to drive like that. But right now, you’re jonesing to get out of a spot you don’t want to be in, and the guy behind you is jonesing even harder. When you look in your rear view mirror, all you can see is his big dumb head, about to explode, as it were, because he is driving so close behind you. The car in front of you finally breaks free from its neighbor in the next lane and a spot opens for you to get through. You pull into it,  knowing you’re just going to have to pass and get back over in the right lane to free the beast behind you, which is not normally your style (see above re: your excellent driving). But, nonetheless, this is what you do to end the madness.

If you’re crazy like me, a scenario like the one above would have you reeling for the rest of the commute and probably into the first part of your day. “I had this asshole driving behind me who must have had someplace really important to be,” you lament to your coworker, who asked how you were in an effort to pass the time while waiting for coffee. But why do we let situations like that get to us?  I think it’s because deep down inside, we really, really want to be right. Other drivers usually affirm your rightness by getting in line behind you.  This guy, however, let it be known that you were wrong by his standards.

The driving scenario is just one illustration but the idea of wanting to be right is probably playing out all over your life. I know it is for me and it’s causing me strife and needless drama. What if you were willing to be wrong? “Oh, you want to drive faster? Go ahead of me.” “Oh, that’s how you load the dishwasher? The hot water and soap will probably still spray the dishes when they’re facing that direction.” “Oh, that’s how you’re going to tackle this project? That’s interesting - I hadn’t thought of it that way.” What if the world isn’t as black and white as your brain wants you to believe? What if there’s more than one way to be right? Gnaw on that a little bit. You might find yourself letting things go that once used to really get to you.