I think we have all been there. Driving behind someone who stops in a lane of traffic to turn – without using their signal. Walking behind someone in a store who slams the door in our face. Little moments of inconsiderate behavior where we stop and think “So rude! I can’t believe people do that!” The truth is, though, we’ve all done things like that, intentionally or not. We can get so easily blustered by or frustrated with others, instantly judging them and their behaviors, that sometimes we forget our own human foibles, or fail to think about any possible reasons, other than intentional rudeness, behind some less than desirable behaviors we encounter.
This happened to me last week, driving with my kids to a nearby creek to go wading. We were waiting in the left lane (signal on!) to turn, excited to splash around on one of the last warm days of the season, when a car drove up behind us, swerved into the right lane only when it was very close to our bumper, and laid on its horn until it was out of site. I pulled into the park, muttering, “Honking at me for making a left?! I had my signal on and everything! Some people are so rude!” Until it dawned on me to check my signal. And sure enough, the light had burned out and the computer code that was supposed to make aware of the burnt-out bulb had malfunctioned. So the rudeness I thought I encountered was also felt by the driver of the car behind me, driving up at a good clip and finding a car stopped dead, with no signal, in the middle of their lane. We both felt wronged by something that was actually a total mistake.
How often does this happen? How often do we feel slighted, angered or dismayed by behavior that could absolutely have another explanation? When we fail to think about the possibilities or reasons behind less than perfect behavior, we wind up judging others for things that they may not even be aware they were doing. And while we shouldn’t excuse away bad behavior, or ignore very intentional rudeness we may encounter, we can remember that we (all of us!) are human, with our own histories and experiences to deal with. [click to continue…]