For years now, as a driver, I have been frustrated when I pull up to a stop sign at an intersection and, without even looking, a pedestrian begins crossing in front of me. Sometimes it seems as if he’s deliberately sauntering across as slowly as possible. I get steamed. From my perspective it’s always the pedestrian that is somehow wrong, even though he has the right of way.
Then, last Friday as I walked out of Shelburne Health and Fitness in an endorphin haze from my workout, I looked left and noticed an SUV coming toward me down the driveway.
“No problem, I’ll go ahead and cross,” I thought to myself as I started for the parking lot. As the pedestrian, my reasoning was: “I’m the pedestrian here; the car can brake and slow down.” And then, for some inexplicable reason, I wondered: “What would I be thinking about me if I was the driver of the car?” Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot.
Therein lies the conundrum. When you’re the pedestrian it’s all about how you have the right of way and the car can wait. When you’re driving the car, it’s all about how frustrating it is that you have to wait while the pedestrian slowly makes his or her way across the intersection. It’s all about perspective, my perspective versus the perspective of the other guy. In a nutshell we live in a world where it’s often “all about me.” It’s the world seen through my perspective only.
This me-centric view of is a prime cause of the frustration people feel with the incivility they experience today. It’s the perceived thoughtlessness of the other guy that is frustrating.
One place to begin addressing the incivility is within each of us: look at yourself through the lens of the other guy. Think of the crosswalk as a metaphor for all those frustrating situations we find ourselves in each day. Before you step out into that crosswalk, stop, take a look around, and consider waiting for the car to pass. Conversely, if a pedestrian does saunter across in front of you, take a deep breath, relax, and smile at the guy lost in his own world. If we all spend a little more time thinking about any situation from the other guy’s perspective, the world just might be a more pleasant place.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."