An interesting conflict that occurs during snowfalls in Baltimore City is over parking spots. Thursday night before the storm commenced, residents began placing folding chairs and other miscellaneous furniture outside to reserve the spaces in front of their houses. I belong to my community’s Facebook group and people quickly began posting pictures, ranting and debating about whether this is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. What I found intriguing about these discussions is how fast they escalated into aggressive responses like, ” I will slash your tires if I see you removed my chairs and took my spot.” Those angered by these comments countered with, “The street is public property, you don’t own the space.” Many of these discussions became so heated that the administrators of the group deleted posts and called for a ceasefire.
Last week on our Conflict Chat program Pattie Porter, Zena Zumeta and I discussed how incidents such as disputing over a parking space or becoming irritated in traffic can trigger us into a protective mode. Pattie then posed the question, “What are we protecting when we get defensive?”
We spoke on-air about how those who have shoveled themselves out may feel protective of that parking space because of all the hard-work, time, and energy they used. When someone swoops in and takes something of value to you, such as a parking space, it could trigger you to become defensive because you want to protect what you see as yours. We challenged listeners to be more self-aware in these situations. You can do this by asking yourself when you’re feeling defensive, what is triggering me to feel this way? What am I protecting? What is of value to me in this situation?
Luckily, I was not one of those people fighting for a parking space. However, I did find myself in morning traffic leaving the city last week, and I was running late to work. I was getting antsy as the first car in the lane I was in appeared not to be paying attention when the light turned green and after a few short moments other cars and myself were pressing our car horns. It was as if the car horns woke me up and I recalled the conflict chat with Pattie and Zena. I then decided to put talk into practice.
I asked myself three questions, and by answering them, I became more self-aware of my emotions, and I was able to gain a better understanding of myself and the situation.
- 1. What is triggering me to feel this way? I was running late, and I was nervous I wouldn’t make it on time to work. I was also angry with myself for leaving later than I should have.
- 2. What am I protecting? When I beeped my car horn at the car in front of me, I was protecting the rules of the road.
3. What is value or need in this situation? My time, reputation, and professionalism were of value to me in this situation. I did not want to show up late to work and risk being unprofessional and perhaps damaging my reputation.
Next time you find yourself triggered by anger or becoming defensive ask yourself these three questions which can assist you in becoming more self-aware.