Last week I was running to Home Depot to grab a few things for a home project. I had my kids in the back seat and was a man on a mission. I pulled into the parking lot from the street and about 20 meters into the parking lot is where other cars that are exiting the parking lot make a left turn across my lane to get to the street.
I wouldn't call myself an aggressive nor a defensive driver. I just try to stay aware of my surroundings and make a solid effort to not hit things. That said, I have a low tolerance for negligence and stupidity.
As I approached the 'intersection' within the parking lot I noticed a vehicle approaching the stop sign, the driver slowed, looked right and rolled through the stop sign right in front of me. I saw it coming and hit the brakes as to not T-Bone him.
My initial reaction was one of anger and frustration. I honked my horn, threw my hands in the air and said a few things that the kids probably shouldn't repeat. The other driver completed the left turn and stopped parallel to my truck facing the opposite direction.
We both rolled down our windows and rather than uselessly swearing at him I said "C'mon man you didn't even look left." This is where the magic happened!
Rather than engaging with me, flipping me the bird, making an excuse or apologizing he simply said "Thank you for stopping".
In that moment, with four simple yet sincere words this seemingly irresponsible vehicle operator became a gentleman and stripped me of my perceived power, anger and frustration. With four simple words he completely disarmed me and left me speechless. All I could think was "ok, you win".
I unloaded the kids, walked into Home Depot and bought what I needed but for the rest of that day and honestly, the rest of the week, that moment kept replaying in my mind. The subject of my anger and frustration became my teacher and the person that wasn't paying attention taught me something and gave me a beautiful gift and a tool to use in the future to deescalate tension or conflict.
In hindsight, I made a quick judgement when he didn't look left, I created a story in my mind about what kind of person he must be. The truth is, I know nothing about him or why in that moment he was distracted and didn't see me coming. Perhaps he just received difficult news, perhaps he was tired or just had a momentary lapse. What I do know for certain is that in that moment, by remaining calm and with four simple words he showed me grace and became the person who controlled the outcome of the situation.