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Curious, Not Furious

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We all experience small, everyday incidents that make someone, often ourselves, disproportionately angry. Marilyn Englander tries to practice being curious first, instead of furious.

I am idling at the wheel behind a couple cars at a stop sign. A few seconds tick by, then the driver just in front of me explodes with a furious bleat of honks. He’s jerking back and forth in agitation. Well, yes, why isn’t that car up at the front moving? I lift my hand to add my horn to the protest when I glimpse an elderly woman painfully creeping to the end of the crosswalk. Cars move forward. My face flushes in shame.

In mere seconds I’ve generated a great deal of anger…yet the incident was so insignificant. How often this happens.

I see a woman drop a bag of dog waste on the shore trail and I call after her in barely disguised irritation --- “Uh, excuse me, but you left that bag!” She turns and patiently explains, “I use bright red bags so I always can find them when I come back this way after doing my two miles. Who can carry it that far in this heat!”

“Be curious, not furious,” I chant to myself, but it’s a challenging discipline. I have to mentally transport myself to the other side of a chasm of strong emotion and look back from the other person’s viewpoint. But if I can allow curiosity to nudge aside my anger, suddenly a new perspective opens. I can take a few beats, breathe, pose a few questions.


To make it a first impulse to inquire, to be generous enough to ask why takes a lot of practice. But saying, “Tell me what’s happening here” or “Please explain” opens the door to empathy.

Reaching out to investigate, willfully suspending anger, requires self-awareness as I hurry through my busy day. But it can help me connect to others instead of seeing them as obstacles. And it certainly lowers blood pressure and lightens my mood.

I’ll keep trying.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.

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