I have a confession to make. I know this may come as a shock, but I haven’t always been the lovable tow guy I told you I was. I used to be somewhat of a jerk. So bad that one day it got me punched in the face…but the good news is I became a better person because of it.
You see when I was in my early 20’s we were living in a small house in one of the older neighborhoods in my city. We didn’t have off-street parking so we were forced to share the parking spaces on the street with our neighbors. Well one day I came home and noticed that the across the street neighbor had parked his car right in front of my house. So, being a jerk, I parked my car directly behind his and pulled up so close that he couldn’t even get out. When he saw what I’d done he became angry and confronted me. I then reacted, like a jerk would, and came out yelling at him. Telling him to “Park on his side of the street”. A fight soon followed and I walked away with a black eye.
Now you might be thinking “how on earth did that make you a better person?”
Well I’ll explain…But first I want to ask you a question.
Have YOU ever been involved in a fight and gone too far? It doesn’t have to be a physical fight. Just an altercation with an employee or a customer or even your girlfriend, where you and the other person were upset and things just got out of hand?
Of course everyone has.
But the worst part about being in a fight isn’t really the fight itself…it’s the rehashing of it that goes on afterwards. We replay the scene in our heads, over and over, trying to fix what went wrong.
And we talk to ourselves and say things like;
“I should have said this”
“I can’t believe he said that”
“What was that supposed to mean?”
We re-live the fight hundreds of times…while taking a shower, brushing our teeth, or driving.
Now…while you may believe that what you’re doing in those moments is trying to make some sense of what happened and sort it all out…the truth is; this re-living it is not good for you.
You see there’s research that supports that, because of the emotion involved in a fight, rehashing it can be very harmful.
I know it might sound a bit touchy-feely but they say that re-living a stressful and emotional event over and over causes you to strengthen specific neural pathways in your brain. This leads you to react similarly in the future and may even increase your tendency toward violence.
This means the thinking that goes on after an altercation, if not kept in check, may cause you to become prone to aggressive and violent behavior.
But there is good news.
Precisely because of the power this stress and emotion can have on you, you can use it for your own good.
Here’s what I mean. There’s a visualization technique I use to root out those bad thoughts. It’s not too far off from how world class athletes like Tennis Players and Golfers use visualization to see themselves serving, or putting perfectly every time. You can use it too.
Here it is.
When I got punched in the face that day you can bet I went over it and over it again in my head. How could I not? I had a big black eye to remind me.
So here’s what I did. Soon after the fight I realized that I was in the wrong. I was the one that caused the problem, and slowly I came to the realization that acting and reacting like a jerk was not going to do anything to help me or my business. That guy knew what I did for a living.
So instead of rehashing the fight in my head…where I came out on top and the other guy got the black eye. I began to replay the scenario but I swapped out what I did wrong with what I should have done right.
Here’s what I mean; When I came home that day…Instead of doing what I did, I could have parked on the other side of the street. I could have asked the guy to move his car. I could have apologized when he came over. I could have moved my car. I could have acted like a man rather than a jerk. And I used all those possibilities to create new scenes in my head.
Now at the time I didn’t know I was using any psychological method to rid myself of anxiety…I just knew that I needed to get rid of this bad feeling…I wanted to fix it.
And each time I did this swap thing I felt better and better. I swapped the bad options for the good ones and then replayed that over and over in my head.
And it worked…after doing it for a while I began to feel much better.
And after a couple of weeks I even got up the courage to apologize to the guy. I grew from the experience because I replayed the situation over and over in my head swapping what went wrong with what should have gone right.
You can do this too. All you have to do is remember a situation where you knew you were in the wrong and accept it. The key here is that you accept that you were wrong. If you don’t accept it, you’re going to find yourself still trying to figure out what the other person did wrong and try to fix that. You can’t do that…Accept it and move on.
Once you’ve done that, then all you do is replace what you did wrong with what you should have done right. Do this over and over at least 10 times a day for a week and you’ll begin to see a change.
The residual effect of this, if you do it enough…is that you’ll be able to control your emotions rather than letting them control you. When a customer complains or becomes angry, rather than you reacting negatively, you’ll have the ability to recognize that you have a choice. You can react with anger and lose, or respond with understanding and win.
Now this isn’t an easy thing to do all the time, don’t misunderstand, I still mess up. But the more you practice the better you’ll get.