It’s a bright busy morning in Lagos and everyone appears to be rushing off to keep an important appointment, whether by foot or vehicles. Traffic is building up and beginning to “tie wrapper”. Emotions at a peak period like this are very fluid and also beginning to be stretched out of their normal limits.
There are all types of drivers on the road; the experienced ones who either form James Bond on the road or the ones that cuss those who don’t drive well, the helpful learners with a large ‘L’ sign to alert the other road users to their presence and the posh learners without an ‘L’ sign because I mean, how can the whole world know that an important person is just learning how to drive in mature adulthood?
Then there is another category of drivers, the angry ones and the calm ones. The angry ones are ever ready to fight and curse out the entire generation of anyone who crosses their path, these are the ones who ask others, ‘do you know who I am?’ and assume that since they are as connected as a spaghetti dish, they can throw tantrums and get away with it. The calm, unfazed, detached but “if-you-touch-the-tiger’s-tail-you-will-see-pepper” ones are the mature understanding ones who generally negotiate and help maintain order when crises arise.
On this beautiful bright morning, Mr Posh learner without an ‘L’ sign made a wrong move on the road, causing calm driver (Mr Calm) to hit angry driver (Mr Angry Connected) from the rear. That is when the ‘wahala’ started.
Mr Angry Connected (Mr AC) driver came out of his state-of-the-art vehicle impeccably dressed in designer’s garb, looking like he stepped off the runway from a fashion show and gave Mr Calm driver’s bonnet a Taekwondo kick and started yelling. “Are you mad? Are you stupid? Do you know who I am? Are you blind? So your eyes were shut abi? I will deal with you today! I will have you arrested. Do you know who I am?” He went on and on, yelling and threatening and trying to open Mr Calm’s door.
By this time Mr Learner was long gone and completely unaware of the fire he had started, but despite knowing the real person at fault, Mr AC kept screaming at Mr Calm and insisting that he would have him arrested. Mr Calm kept speaking to Mr AC in quiet soothing tones and eventually came out of his vehicle to assess the damage and realised that it was his own car’s traffic indicator that was broken and there was literally no damage to Mr AC’s car. This is when Part 2 of the wahala started.
At this point, Mr Calm had run out of virtue and patience and insisted on being arrested by Mr AC who then realised that the person he had been yelling at had the capacity to actually arrest him on the spot. That is how Mr AC calmed down and started begging Mr Calm, enlisting other drivers who had arrived at the scene of the altercation and being the reasonable person he is, Mr Calm dropped his desire to be arrested and order was restored.
Let us now examine a different response. What if Mr AC had calmly walked out of his car, first examined his car to see the extent of the damage and then gently engaged Mr Calm based on his findings without first throwing a tantrum?
We will always have opportunities to be provoked at practically every turn. There is this concept of counting from 1 to 10 under your breath before responding when someone annoys you. The explanation behind this concept is that it gives you time to engage the higher order executive functions of the brain including reasoning, evaluating situations and resolving conflicts. Immediately responding to knotty situations without thinking through usually results in escalating tensions and negative outcomes.
Keep calm and count to 10 or 200 or to whatever number you must until you can trust yourself to act in a calm coordinated matter, and this helps you keep your stress hormones in check and contributes to your overall well-being.