I lost my temper this morning. I was driving to work along a 30mph road. The road I live on. Out of nowhere a black, Audi A3 drove up behind me, swerved onto the opposite side of the road and accelerated off in front of me. My response, “You f%^$**) () £@£$”. I was flipping furious. Furious that on a 30mph road, a road which has a primary school on, and one my kids walk along most days, this idiot thought it ok to drive like a maniac.
What a selfish, arrogant git. He clearly gave no thought to anyone but himself. If a child had stepped out into the road….it doesn’t bear thinking about. But think about it I did. I chose to feel angry for at least the next 10mins or so. But then something happened. I saw an ambulance driving towards me at speed. Now I know what you’re thinking…and no, it wasn’t on route to said Audi driver. But as it sped past with the blue lights flashing, it made me consider the motive of the Audi driver.
Let me explain. What if the Audi had been an ambulance? Would I have reacted in the same way? No. Why? Because I understand what an ambulance represents. Its intention and purpose. The reason for the driving behaviour is clear. We don’t think twice about an ambulance running a red light or breaking the speed limit. In fact, we react completely differently. We move out of the way. We happily wave them on, feeling good that we’ve helped them get to the emergency a little bit quicker.
But what if the Audi driver was in fact driving to an emergency situation of its own? What is they weren’t just being a complete dick? I’ll never know which it was but maybe I should have considered the former.
I had judged him on his behaviour. That’s what we do. But how often do we think about our own behaviour and the impact it has on other people? Especially when, and crucially, it informs their opinion of us.
I used to have a manager who, when spotting me in the corridor at work, used to put her head down and scurry past. I found this really bizarre. I knew she’d seen me. Why didn’t she have the courtesy to say ‘Hi’? She also used to run everywhere. Like everything was an emergency. She appeared to be too busy for the likes of me. Her behaviour told me I was unimportant. That she always had more pressing things to do than actually stop, say hello or engage with me. I stopped trying with her. Our relationship became transactional and necessity based.
Sometimes it’s only through someone having the courage to give us feedback that we stop and think about our behaviour. Think about what it says about us. Our behaviour is a window into what we’re thinking but our overall intention is usually hidden. Unless we chose to share it. So here’s the thing, share it!!
It takes the ambiguity away. People are clear on what you’re trying to do and why. If we check our intention before doing something we can make sure it’s clean and therefore appropriate.
My advice. Think about what your behaviour says about you and what do you want it to say. When you walk into work in the morning, what’s the first thing you do? If you walk to your desk without stopping and talking to people, what does that say to them? Are you shutting yourself away, behind your PC ,or behind your office door working really hard on your engagement strategy? By doing so are you saying you’re unavailable, you’re too important, or you don’t care about people? It’s probably not true but how do they know that?
If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to do a little self-awareness exercise.
Try this. Step out of the situation and imagine the view from a security camera in your office. What would you see yourself doing? Look at how others respond to you when you walk past. What could be the reason for that? Recognising how your behaviour impacts others and choosing to do something about it, is one of the most underrated skills in business today. Emotional Intelligence. After all, your personal brand is at stake.
You may be the Audi driver, without even realising it, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be an ambulance driver.
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