May 19

Real Love in the Street

May 19, 2007

Anger Management

Today I was riding my bicycle down the street for a bit of exercise when a man came frantically running out of his driveway, gesturing to me, and shouting, “Can you help me? Can you help me?”

Naturally, I pulled over to find out what I could do, and he led me up his driveway, where I met another man, who was standing beside a sleek Cadillac sedan. Both men began shouting their stories at me, so I stopped them and asked each of them in turn to tell me what was happening.

Each man was quite agitated and eager to be right, and I noticed that simply my being calm immediately had a soothing effect on both of them. As I listened to each man, the tension gradually drained from his face and body. As each man spoke, the other tried to interrupt on several occasions, but I gently reached out and touched the person who was interrupting and asked if he could wait until the speaker was finished. In this way, both men were able to tell their entire story.

Briefly, the man who shouted at me from the driveway had come from a foreign country to the Atlanta airport, some two hours away, and when he saw the limousine driver summon him to his car, he assumed that that was the standard mode of transportation from the airport. They had a brief conversation about the fare, but when they arrived at the passenger’s destination, the stated final fare was far different from the fare the passenger remembers being quoted to him originally. Hence the argument.

The passenger was absolutely certain he was right, and he repeatedly called the limousine driver a crook. The driver, on the other hand, was certain that the passenger was trying to cheat him, and both men wanted to call the police. I helped them see how easily the misunderstanding could have occurred. As I listened to each man’s position and expressed my understanding of it, he was finally able to describe how he might have contributed to the problem, and within moments of that, a solution was achieved.

We have a powerful need to feel accepted — to feel seen, valued, and listened to — and if that need is ignored, everything else goes badly: our marriages, our parenting, our relationships at work, and even our negotiations with complete strangers, like limo drivers. In this case, I was fascinated once again to see the nearly universal application of Real Love. Two men were so angry that they couldn’t hear a word spoken by the other, but with a little Real Love — from someone they didn’t even know — their anger dissipated and a resolution was accomplished.

The more Real Love we introduce into our lives, the more we’ll see this kind of conflict elimination.

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