I love to road trip, and my favorite partner to road trip with is my husband. Through the years we’ve developed traveling rhythms and travel roles. I arrange the luggage in the trunk, he shuts down the house. He fills the car with gas before we leave, I route the GPS. We both share the driving load; I usually drive in the A.M., because he doesn’t do mornings. He usually does afternoon driving, because I like a mid-day nap. It works… pretty much.
We do have our small compromises though. I prefer eating in the car to save on time, but he doesn’t, so we stop. He loves Subway’s tuna sandwich, but I get nauseous from the smell, so he orders something else. (This also goes for bananas. Yes, I know I’m weird!)
The biggest friction we have on trips is honestly our driving styles, particularly when it comes to the proper use of the left lane. Early on in our road tripping days my husband always used the left lane. He liked to hang out there and didn’t mind when the cars would pass him on the right, (giving me the nasty looks). In the beginning I tried to overlook it, but that didn’t last long. Eventually I gave in to irritation and would suggest, “You can move over.” He’d say, “I’m fine. There’s no one around.” And he would comfortably command the left lane.
Doesn’t sound like much of an issue when no one is around, I agree. However, he would often get lost in the driver daydream and wouldn’t realize that other cars had eventually creeped in. (Cue my, “You can move over now.” comment.) In those moments when he realized he was lagging, he would then speed up, ultimately throwing off the pacing of the other cars and messing up their cruise control settings.
Confession time here; when I’m the one passing on the right, I’ve been known to give the “look” and I’m not gracious at all when the left lane loafer decides to pick up the pace. I will punch past the speed limit tolerance to make a point, and then pair that with a bit of commentary for the entire car to hear. Not proud, but it’s the truth.
I share about the left lane loafers, and my disproportionate reaction to them for two reasons; first, it was behind the wheel of a car that I realized that I needed to change myself. And second, to show you the first steps I took in making that change.
My life changing moment behind the wheel happened one day in the 90’s. I was driving on a side street in Chicago and as usual was impatient with the car ahead of me. So, I passed him on a two-way street, which ended up being a close call for a potential accident. I can’t remember all the details, only that I had pulled over afterwards, quite shaken up. The car that I had skirted around drove past me and the passenger pushed his face, warped with anger, up to the filmy glass of his window. My brain processed this in slow motion and can only compare it to a terrifying fun-house clown coming at you out of an abysmal darkness. I could read his incensed lips, contorted with a grotesque ugliness. It was a two-syllable cuss word that twisted and elongated his face and gripped me with conviction. He was right, and I had to change.
That episode was one of the reasons that made me chase after real solutions. That pursuit landed me, as early as 1995, into the world of emotional intelligence. The very first thing I learned was the impact that emotional self-awareness can make.
Like the left lane loafer who is in his own world and doesn’t realize there are cars around him, we too have behaviors we are unaware of that impact ourselves and others. Being emotionally unaware is like the blind spot on your car. Developing it upgrades you to a rear-view camera and side mirror indicators. There are a couple approaches you can use to increase your self-awareness.
FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS:
Others are a great source of information for us. The angry man sent me a very clear signal that initiated positive life change (although I recommend you choose better language!). We get feedback from others all of the time; some structured, like work-place reviews and other unstructured, like a nagging spouse. It’s up to us to listen to it, verify it with God and others, and then receive it if it’s true. That’s all there is to self-awareness!
Making changes is not a part of self-awareness. The first step is to just become aware. For instance, one can become aware that they are a jerk (like me in the car) and never choose to make a change. While that would be unfortunate, it’s still the work of self-awareness because it brings you to the revelation and there’s great value just in that. It’s character that influences whether or not we choose to make a change. And as Christians our call to a character like Christ’s is what moves us in the right direction.
While others may not have access to our deep inner wells of thought and feelings, they are privy to much more than we think. Years ago, in a meeting at work, a coworker had commented how my voice got louder every time I advocated for an outcome I wanted. That was a blind spot. I didn’t realize I was using something as simple as the volume of my voice to push my point and push over other’s ideas. That was a valuable revelation and once I knew about it, I could then work to change it. You can’t change something you don’t know about!
Others’ body language is another good gauge to use. When you make it a point to notice it you can tell how engaged they are and how they are receiving what you are saying. It can tell you if you are talking ‘at’ them or ‘with’ them. If they are fidgeting, stuttering to get a word in, looking around or have their arms crossed, maybe it’s time to curb your enthusiasm and give them space to speak or to leave. It’s a simple skill to employ, but it garners good results.
Let’s go back to our left lane loafers who sometimes wave off others responses, such as the nasty looks from those passing in the right lane, because they are comfortable and don’t care. Not caring is the kryptonite to the value that self-awareness can bring. Emotional intelligence cares about others and how we affect them, so the information we get from them is very helpful. When you listen to others, verify what they say with God and someone you trust, and then receive only what’s true, you can begin to build self-awareness.
(Please note, I’m talking about receiving feedback from others who are healthy contributors to your life. Even still, you need to weigh every word you accept and receive against God’s truth.)
Socrates says, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Knowing yourself is the largest, most effective work of self-awareness. Different assessments will shine light on our personality, love language, spiritual gifts, values, etc. But shining the light on your emotional tendencies like knowing how you get mad, what happens to your body when you get fearful, or even identifying behaviors that tip off depression, are extremely advantageous to have.
A simple step of emotional self-awareness is to notice what your body does during an emotion. Do your fists clench when you’re frustrated? Does your neck kink when you’re stressed? Does your breathing become rapid when you get angry? Noticing what your body does is a key skill for knowing what’s coming next and being able to prepare for it. For instance, I found that I will lean in when making a point or standing my ground. It is my physical advocate defense. This isn’t generally well received on the other side of me. When I notice that I’m doing this I can engage my breathing to slow things down and relax myself. This actually helps my brain make better decisions in situations like that. These little things are a big deal!
Do you know what your face looks like when you are disgusted, proud, embarrassed or adoring? In one of my workshops we do an exercise where people partner up and get an emotional word stickered to their back. Their partner has to silently read the word, then act out the feeling. Unless you get the word mad, or sad, most people struggle to replicate the feeling.
Overall, the responses are that the exercise is difficult. But I explain to them that their family – husband, wife or children – know what their face looks like when they are disgusted, proud embarrassed or adoring. Even if they can’t manufacture the looks, they possess them and use them all the time. You see we operate day in and day out with physical emotional language, but most of us don’t pay attention to how we do it. Self-awareness helps you begin to notice. And, during that game when someone has a partner that can easily display their word, it does become fun.
Start noticing yourself. Start noticing what your muscles do when you are disappointed. Start noticing your breathing pattern under stress. Once you gather this information, you are better able to institute a change. Self-awareness is the first key to developing your EQ because you can’t change something you are unaware of. When it comes to emotional self-awareness most of us are left lane loafers. We haven’t been raised to pay attention to how we are driving our emotions. The good news is that it’s never too late to choose to change lanes, but first you have to know what lane you are even in!
· Ponder the Scripture below.
· Is there someone you know that remains calm under pressure and uses gentle speech when upset? Ask them what they do to manage their feelings. (Note: you’re not looking for someone who suppresses or stuffs their feelings – that’s not healthy.)
3. Pray and invite Jesus into the process. Read the Scripture below and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of growth.