Being Critical While Driving and the Value of Distraction
I'm super critical of other drivers on the road. I say mean things, call them names I don't use at any other time, and wonder aloud what sort of idiots they are. This is a behavior I've been thinking about for a while. I don't like it. It can't possibly add anything to my life, other than what-not-to-do lessons. And while you can and should learn from other's mistakes, driving is actually a fairly simple, if dangerous, thing to do. The rules are clearly spelled out and if you follow them as a driver, you're generally prepared when others do not.
I was worried about this when I got in the car this morning. But thinking backing on my drive to and from work, I can't recall any terrible thoughts. I don't think I cursed a single person.
Unfortunately, I don't think this was because of any great change in my attitude. I think it's because I'm really enjoying the audiobook I'm listening to (Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Passl).
So, to all the drivers I didn't criticize today, you've got a book to thank.
On a related topic that's possibly crossed your mind while reading this, exactly how safe is it to get so into an audiobook while driving that you stop criticizing how others drive? It doesn't feel like it affects my driving, and I do lose track of the story when I get into more stressful driving situations, so I've decided it's okay.
But listening to an audiobook doesn't usually keep me from criticizing. Today it did. As anyone who's ever tried to give up a bad behavior knows, a good distraction works great - in the short term.
Criticism and the Workplace
Criticism may have been born at home, where we criticize family members mercilessly, but we gleefully take the habit to work with us. To some, it feels constructive. If they can't find something wrong and point it out to others, they feel useless. I tend to stay away from that sort of complaining.
But complaining about others in a judgmental, gossipy sort of way to my workplace friends? Guilty.
I tried to not do that today, but it happened anyhow. A coworker started the conversation, a small joke about someone else's behavior that had belittled him in the past. I joined right in. We both knew we were poking fun at something someone else did, and that the someone else wouldn't think it was funny at all, because they didn't mean to cause harm when they did it.
That should be something I empathize with, not ridicule.
This was my biggest hurdle. I said critical things about myself, out loud to others, more than once. It seems I might be in the habit of giving myself unfavorable labels, such as "idiot" and "stupid." Things I usually reserve for other drivers.
Part of me wants to say that's a whole different issue and it shouldn't count, but I'm fairly certain that self-deprecating behavior comes from the same judgmental place as criticism toward others.
I decided to wear a bracelet as a reminder to quell critical statements. I normally wear my wedding rings, sometimes earrings, and that's it. So when I have a bracelet on, I notice it.
For my reminder, I chose a silver bracelet I received as a bridesmaid's gift from my friend Susan. It's simple and pretty, not so heavy as to be intrusive, but I know I'll be aware of its presence.
Start thinking about how to say fewer critical things, especially about yourself, without being critical when you slip up, and it starts to get confusing. So I found a way to make it simpler.
Another way to say nothing critical is to just be nice.
Be nice. Just be nice.
Week Fifteen: Spiritual - Say Nothing Critical