What Lane Do You Drive In?

What Lane Do You Drive In?

Highway drivers and their choice of lane are the topic of many heated debates across the globe and have been the root of highway violence. What is most interesting to me is the emotional connection people have to a fast and slow lane concept and the lengths at which people will debate this issue, and can end up in road rage!


Full disclosure: I don’t really care what lane you drive in. Not in the slightest. I am more interested in how you manage this issue. It tells me a great deal about your ability to resolve conflict and your preferred styles.

I would be lying if I said it does not bother me when I come up behind someone who is driving slower than me. It does. It does not matter what lane I am in, if they are in front of me and going slower than I want to be going, it can be annoying. I have places to be and have meticulously planned my route and time. Okay, the last part about meticulously planning is not accurate; it is more likely that I just hoped in my car and started driving. I do like to be at least 10 minutes early on arrival; however, and a slow driver is not something I account for.

If you are human, and I suspect you are, then you have probably had some days where slow drivers annoy while other times you fail to notice you have been driving below the limit for 10 minutes (OMG – how does this happen, seriously?) Either way, once you identify it is a problem, the most common outcomes are:

  1. You change lanes when it is safe and keep going
  2. You become aggressive and do things you would not normally do such as drive too close and honk your horn while gesturing madly trying to get them to move

To help understand how our feelings are influencing our actions, we can categorize them as either facilitative or debilitative emotions.

Facilitative Emotions. People who view uncomfortable situations as an opportunity for growth are channeling their emotions towards facilitation. These are the feelings that contribute to our effective functioning and motivate us to improve unfavorable conditions. Anger is a facilitative emotion when it causes you to study harder for a test, change cell phone providers, or leave an unhealthy relationship. You were unhappy, and you acted to alleviate the discomfort. The feelings themselves are often short-lived and are less intense than debilitative emotions. In the case of driving behind a slow driver, I can feel annoyed, but still capable of changing my action (after all, it is easier to change my behaviors than that of the driver in front of me). If I see an open lane, I can pull over and pass freely. Simple. No lasting emotional stress, just a slight deviation and I am still on route and on time.

Debilitative emotions are more intense feelings, last longer than the actual event, and hinder our ability to perform and critically think through problems. Rage is a good example of debilitative emotions as it keeps people feeling “trapped” behind the slower vehicle. Many times, these feelings are based on irrational thoughts as problems are presented as an “either/or” situation. In the case of the car, either they move (my desired outcome) or I tailgate until they do (my less desired outcome).

The good news is we can train our brain towards minimizing debilitative emotions and focusing on facilitative emotions. The difference between the two is how we frame a problem. Either/or thinking is a trap and it prevents us from considering any other potential solution. If we move away from this limited way of thinking and challenge our brain with a more complex problem, we find alternative routes (literally and figuratively).

To challenge the brain, we need to present the problem in a new way. Above, we stated the outcome I want (the car to move) with the outcome I don’t want (honk my horn) as an either / or statement. Instead, I want you to set up the problem as an “and” statement.

  • What I want: is the driver to move so I can get where I need to go
  • What I don’t want: is to have to stay behind him and act like a jerk

Challenge to the brain: How can I get where I need to go when the driver in front of me is too slow AND not have to honk my horn to make them move?

Now start brainstorming! I have taken the liberty to write down a few ideas that came to mind.

  • I can move around him
  • I can refrain from honking my horn, it will just make me upset
  • I can flash my lights
  • I can call ahead and let others know I will be a few minutes late
  • I can slow down and enjoy the ride
  • I can look for an opportunity to go around, this traffic is heavier than I expected

You will notice that they all start with “I can”. There is ownership in the action and power in the options all while minimizing the emotional impact. Now all I have to do is choose one.

Happy driving!

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