Road rage happens. If you’re the kind of person who loses their cool when another driver unexpectedly swerves into your lane, you might want to read about ways to reduce your anger when behind the wheel. There’s hope for you yet.
But even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t let subpar drivers get under your skin or anything for that matter, it’s still possible to wind up in the crossfire of someone else’s fury.
And staying cool as a cucumber on the road doesn’t automatically mean you don’t irk a fellow driver who’s got a short fuse. If you find yourself the target of someone else’s road rage, there are ways to calm the situation, even from inside your car.
We enlisted a few experts to share tips on how deal with someone with road rage without getting yourself run off the road. And further to that, we asked how to calm a driver down when you’re the passenger without getting left behind on the side of the road.
If you’re the driver and another driver is raging on you…
Distance yourself from the person. First and foremost, do your best to get away from them. “Safely remove yourself from the situation; exit the highway or turn down another street if necessary,” says Dr. Lakeasha Sullivan, a clinical psychologist with over 15 years of experience. Continuing on your merry way could continue to provoke the person, so it’s better to bow out, even if you don’t feel in the wrong.
Talk back to negative thoughts. Don’t let someone else’s rage reflect onto you. “Thoughts such as, ‘I shouldn’t be treated this way!’ will only make you angry or feel like you’re at the mercy of others,” says Dr. Sullivan.
“Tell yourself that people don’t have to do what you think they should do; they’ll do what’s in their best interest.” This is one situation where talking back (to yourself) is encouraged.
Flip the situation on its head with empathy. It might feel like the last thing they deserve, but find empathy. “Assume that this person’s rage is situational and not indicative of a character flaw,” says Dr. Sullivan. “Underneath anger is usually sadness. So, imagine that they just received some of the worst news in their life and they don’t know how to cope with it. Wish them the best and move on.”
And if you’re a passenger when someone else is in a bout of road rage…
Realize the anger could cause harm to yourself or others. Anyone experiencing the throes of a rage fit is not going to be as safe a driver as they could be. If you’re in the vehicle with someone acting like the Incredible Hulk, recognize that you too could get smashed.
“Not only are they dangerous, but you are putting your life in their hands and that isn’t okay,” says Patrice N. Douglas, a certified anger management specialist currently based in Southern California.
Express your concern, but wait until you’re off the road. Leaping into the middle of a bumper-to-bumper dispute and telling the person you’re with they’re acting irrationally won’t necessarily net the best results. Instead, Douglas suggests giving them a minute to cool off before broaching the subject. “When you get to your final destination, let them know you feel uncomfortable with their driving and won’t be driving with them until they cool off,” says Douglas.
Offer to drive. If you’ve got your license, this is always an option. “If you have a particular friend/family member who always gets upset while driving, take the wheel instead,” says Douglas. “Sometimes the anxiety of driving gets to people and they do better as passengers especially during peak hours.”
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