Traffic jams, inconsiderate drivers, even driving in bad weather
Traveling in a variety of road and congestion situations can make you feel stressed.
We’ve all experienced it. You’re enjoying a nice, peaceful drive on a sunny day. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, another car begins to tailgate you. Then, the driver flashes his lights and begins honking his horn. At the first opportunity, he overtakes you. How do you feel now? More important, what action will you take next?
Unfortunately, most of us will handle situations like this the wrong way.
Angry and aggressive behaviours include purposefully tailgating, yelling or honking at another driver to show anger, and making “angry gestures.” But researchers further estimate that about 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in “extreme road rage,” which included purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.
Fortunately leaning on the horn is uncommon in Thailand but there are still too many examples when road rage has resulted in ugly incidents. How emotional intelligence can help. Emotional intelligence includes the ability to understand and manage our emotions, as well as our responses to those emotions.
Like any skill, you can train and sharpen it to produce desirable outcomes.
So how can you use emotional intelligence to respond to emotional incidents on the road or elsewhere? Here are some suggestions:
Pause. It’s easy to get caught up in emotion if someone cuts us off or does something impolite. Before you react, force yourself to stop for a few minutes (or even seconds).
Think things through. Once you’ve paused, ask yourself the following questions: If I retaliate, what might the other person do in response? Is it worth it? How would those potential results affect me (or my family) in the future? How does this incident fit into the big picture? Will I really care about it next week, or next year?
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Once we’ve slowed things down, it’s often easier to relate to another person. Could it be that this person is simply having a bad day? Or maybe there are extenuating circumstances: Imagine the guy that just cut you off is actually trying to rush his pregnant wife to the hospital.
Putting it into practice. Knowing how to handle these situations is important to managing your stress levels and helps ensure you arrive safely at your destination. Getting emotionally worked up rarely leaves us feeling any better off – it just passes on the frustration to another driver and spreads the road rage. Decide in advance that today you will allow those we are anxiously trying to move into your lane to do so, rather than being competitive. It will cost you almost no time and it feels good when you receive a friendly wave rather than feeling stressed because of some sort of pointless duel.
1. Allow time for delays This may seem like a no-brainer, but failing to give yourself a bit of breathing room when traveling to work or social engagements can create unnecessary stress, so allow time for unexpected delays. If you do get stuck in traffic find alternative, less crowded routes – less traffic makes for a less stressful drive.
2. Get some rest Driving while tired can be stressful – and dangerous. Getting a good night’s sleep before hitting the road is a good step towards staying calm and in charge on the road. It’s just as important to rest regularly along the way of your trip. Consider changing drivers if you are feeling tired or stressed.
3. Sound mind, sound ride Make your vehicle a setting that reminds you of one of the reasons why it’s awesome to drive – playing and hearing what you want. The right playlist or the right talk radio station can help fend off stress and frustration in a traffic jam. At a reasonable volume, this can help make the drive more pleasant and help you stay calm.
As You’re Driving
1. Drive smoothly
If burning fuel (and your money) is stressing you out as you sit idle in traffic, remember that smooth driving can help decrease fuel consumption. There’s no reason to rush five metres forward only to stop again. Accelerate and brake smoothly to in stop-start traffic help make your tank go further.
2. Give yourself some space
Tailgating is dangerous for everyone involved and a recipe for potential accidents. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. If you find yourself being tailgated, you might want to find a safe space to pull over and let the driver pass. Bad drivers are not worth your precious energy!
3. Drive and Let Drive
Don’t honk or stare, or use rude hand gestures. Take a few deep breaths. Though you can’t control traffic or other drivers, you can control your own behavior. Getting into a conflict is ultimately self-defeating, as it will not get you out of the traffic faster.
4. Entertain the kids
Maybe you’re stuck in traffic and the kids are getting restless and bored. Having agitated kids aboard is another sure way of increasing your stress levels so plan ahead and be prepared with a few ways to keep them entertained and you smiling: