Driving in my home town of Santa Monica, CA the other day I had, what I will call, “an incident.” I was in the second of two lanes heading up Wilshire Blvd. and about to make a right turn when a woman in a parked car opened her door in front of me. There was no panic and enough room for me to pass, but I chose to crowd the lane to my left a little to ensure she had enough space and prevent startling her. The driver of the car in said lane was concerned by my crowding her as evidenced by her honking. At that point I started my right turn at the intersection.
Distracted by the door opening and horn honking, I didn’t notice until the last moment that a man walking his dog was about to step off of the curb. With no time to stop or adjust my trajectory, he had to break stride and not step off of the curb until I passed.
I parked and entered the office building – my destination – to discover the same man approaching me in the lobby. And he chose to let me know how he felt about my right turn with all of the dignity and grace of a junk yard dog. Without knowing the other elements of the scenario, he started growling about how he was in the crosswalk and that “according to the law pedestrians have the right of way,” attacking my driving abilities, etc. and was on the brink of becoming threatening in his choice of words and in his physical proximity to me – getting a bit in my face.
My inner cowboy (if there is such a thing for a Santa Monica native) was ready to draw. “Them’s fightin’ words!”
My ego was confident in my ability to physically defend myself against this man if I had to and my first reaction was to get righteous and inform him that he was not in the crosswalk as I saw him on the curb. And I wanted to wrong him for his “pedestrian entitlement,” not stopping and looking before he crossed the street, citing that while the laws of man say the 175 lb. pedestrian has the right of way, the laws of physics suggest the 4,000+ lb. car trumps that. Childhood Rules 101, right?!
But I shifted.
(Sit down, cowboy.) I told him that I understood his upset. “I hear your message,” I said. “Now what would you like me to do with your anger?” – a quote I had heard from someone else once. He walked away. I figured that would be the end of our contact. But only a couple of minutes later, the door to an elevator for which I was waiting opened. Guess who was in it.
I chucked at the Universe’s sense of humor. “OK,” I said audibly as I boarded.
Re-engaging him I explained that I welcomed and appreciated his communication of his thoughts and feelings. And I offered for his consideration that we, as men, can speak to and acknowledge each other in a different way. “I am happy to hear whatever you want to tell me,” I said. “But you don’t have to bark at me like a junk yard dog. And if I screw up, I’m happy to apologize.”
While I may have been unintentionally shaming him in that moment, he seemed to hear my message and even agree. He kind of nodded his head while looking down. The elevator door opened and I exited.
faultWhen we, as men, acknowledge our thoughts and feelings, and choose to vulnerably and authentically express them to other men, we create an opportunity for other men to open up and receive those thoughts and feelings, acknowledge them and even share their own. It gives us a chance to openly own our respective accountability in a given situation and come to an understanding. There doesn’t have to be fault, blame, shame, guilt or judgment. It can simply be an exchange of ideas that may teach each man something.
That man and I both had a role in that situation. He was wronging me for not stopping at the crosswalk. I was wronging him for not looking before he crossed the street. But when we both set aside our righteousness and judgments and looked at our own respective roles in the situation, it completely changed our experience. And in that moment in the elevator, even if we were in disagreement with each others’ respective positions, we were in alignment as men.
When we, as men, focus our sights on what WE are doing with regard to creating our reality instead of what HE is doing, then we can more openly talk to and learn from each other. When we focus on what HE is doing, we place ourselves in a victim position. And I can’t remember a time when I saw a man consciously want to be a damsel in distress.
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About the Author -

Executive coach and motivational speaker Chris M. King facilitates the mind shift necessary for professionals and organizations to achieve authentic success and empowerment. Clients experience productivity increases of up to 40%, freedom from burnout and overwhelm, clarity in times of transition, dramatically improved work/life balance, answers to "what's next," creative solutions for innovation, and an overall increase in satisfaction in career and in life. And he does all of this without ever giving advice! Chris doesn't show them THE way. He guides them in finding THEIR way. An emerging thought leader in the men's movement, Chris also works with professional men and women on accountability, vulnerability, and empowerment. He specifically addresses the issues associated with mid-life crises and Peter Pan Syndrome. He is a volunteer for ManKind Project International, a contributing author to The Good Men Project and Elephant Journal, and is honored to be working with Sam Morris as a contributor to Zen Warrior Training®, helping people achieve self-mastery. Chris is also a coach at Project Bully Buster, coaching teens as they navigate the challenges of adolescence. He is honored to work with and support organizations dedicated to the men’s movement, to women's issues, and, as brother to a special needs sister, the US Special Olympics. Chris is currently working on his first book.

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