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.