On Actions and Reactions ...

I was chatting with some friends the other day and they were telling me about an experience they had with an UberEats driver who parked in a handicap spot for his pickup.  My friend confronted the UberEats driver about parking in a handicap spot by mentioning that there is a large fine for doing so.  The driver attempted to stare her down and intimidate her and she stood her ground but the situation was going to a bad place with words exchanged.  Her significant other - a tall, large and tattooed man - was able to de-escalate through increased intimidation and the UberEats driver moved from the spot.

Now, as she was telling me this story I could feel my anxiety cranking up.  We started to discuss if this was the right choice or if there were other options.  I explained that I would not have engaged that way.  That I would have calculated that there is a 99.9999% chance that nothing would happen as a result me remaining silent AND that if the 0.0001% happened, the worst outcome would be that someone would be inconvenienced for 30 seconds until the UberEats driver had picked up his delivery and left.  But for me there was a 100% chance of not experiencing stress, violence and drama.

That also in my calculations, through confrontation, there is about a 0.1% chance that the person would say "I am sorry, you are right." and move.  There is also about a 0.9% chance that the situation could escalate to violence.  There was about a 98% chance that the confrontation would escalate to a battle of wills that would require a 3rd party intervention to de-escalate. There was a 100% chance of some sort of stress, drama and possibly even violence.

There was also about a 1% chance that the person was disabled, that their tag was just not visible and that they would then need to disclose the nature of their disability to a stranger - which no person would be required to do with a stranger (a sort of "Karen" situation).

On the other hand, as she correctly pointed out, if no one ever stands up for anything, then the systems that keep people disadvantaged will never change.  She is right, the world needs those voices to stand up for what's right. At the same time, I am certainly not against handicap rights and I would participate in any organised action that would move forward an agenda of systemic change for any disadvantaged group.

There was also a huge miscalculation on behalf of the UberEats driver to attempt to use intimidation to validate his wrong-doing.  My friend is about 5'3 and 120lbs fight weight - probably wouldn't scare most men with her look - but believe me, I train with her and she is a vicious knee-capper!  Thankfully the presence of her significant other de-escalated the situation without the driver having to learn this lesson the hard way.

Now, for a moment, consider the drivers point-of-view. He assumed that his action - a quick run-in and run-out - wouldn't inconvenience anyone - even if it violates a bylaw.  In his mind, the low percentage change that he would inconvenience another person was outweighed by the one-to-two minute inconvenience he would have experienced had he parked a few spots further away.

What he could not know was that his action would be witnessed by a social justice warrior and would ultimately result in his being physically intimidated into behaviour correction by a larger man, and a 10 minute inconvenience at the drama played out.  He couldn't know that the whole situation would then turn into a story that, when told, would cause an uninvolved 3rd party to experience stress out of worry for his friend, and a debate about the correct way to respond to public bad behaviour - a discussion that would create tension - albeit short-lived - in a long standing friendship.  I am sure if he has known all those things he would have made the choice to move to the other spot another 30 seconds further away.

I guess the bottom line here is that you can only control 2 things in life - your actions and your reactions.  You should assume, as the laws of physics state, that your action will create an equal and opposite reaction.  Therefore, every action we take should default towards one that is the least likely to generate a negative reaction.  Some will be less clear - there are many issues in society for which there is no consensus of what is right and wrong.  Obliviously, the handicapped parking issue is one that we have accepted as part of the social contract and have for a long time, and it should be respected so that we can move onto other issues and discussion.

Also, we need to learn to overcome the ego reaction that pushes us towards violence and intimidation when challenged.  We need to train ourselves to be ok with saying "You are right, I don't know what I was thinking in that moment.  Thank you for the correction."

We also need to step away from the idea that every "bad" action is the result of a bad intention.  I am sure if questioned in another situation that driver would have said that he would never park in a handicap space.  But, maybe he was having a bad day with rude customers and just not thinking clear over that stress? Maybe he was late for his next delivery? Or maybe it was his last run of the day and his wife was at home, sleep deprived with a new baby and he wanted to get home to help?

We can never truly know the root cause of  a behaviour unless we fully understand the circumstances, history and heart of the person taking the action.  Until we learn to communicate without judgement and accept negative feedback without having to defend our fragile egos, these situations will replay themselves over-and-over and result in violence, intimidation or public-shaming.  All these bring stress and negativity into a world that really doesn't need any help with that right now ...

Be better to each other ...

#action #reaction #socialjustice