Mark was in between sales calls, focused and ready for the next prospect. His alertness that day is likely why he was able to react in time to avoid the accident.
It all happened in an instant. Before he even understood what was happening, the neatly stacked phone books in the backseat all of a sudden flew onto the floor as his foot slammed onto the brakes.
Even just a split-second delay would have resulted in a rear-end collision with the commercial van that had changed lanes too close. Dangerously close! It’s as if the other driver hadn’t even seen him!
Though his car stopped in time, Mark’s heart kept racing faster and faster.
He was mad.
“He could have killed me!” He yelled out loud, though no one could hear him. “I could kill him!”
His rage needed an outlet, and that’s when he noticed the phone number on the back of the van. It was a roofing company and Mark wasted no time getting his cell phone out to let the people at the office know about the idiot driver who nearly killed him.
But Mark didn’t get to speak with anyone in an office, because the guy who answered the phone was on the road, a solopreneur doing the job of four people—roofing, logistics, marketing, and answering phones.
That’s right: Mark had a direct line with the guy who had just cut him off—the perfect outlet for his rage!
The driver was in disbelief. “Wait, is that you behind me right now?”
“YES!” Mark screamed. “You cut me off and nearly killed me!”
“You’re being unreasonable,” the driver replied.
“I’m being unreasonable?! You’re the one who cut me off!”
“Listen, let’s just pull over and settle this.”
“We’ll settle it alright!”
They pulled into the parking lot of a Dunkin' Donuts. When Mark realized what was happening, he regretted how he had reacted. But it was too late. The other driver was already out of the van and heading towards him.
Thinking fast, Mark dug through the pile of phone books in the back of the car until he felt the cool steel against his hand. With clenched fist, he grabbed hold of the lug wrench. He was hoping he wouldn't have to use it, but he’d rather have it and not need it (rather than need it and not have it).
Mark stepped out of the car just as the other driver was in striking distance. He braced himself for the worst.
“What do you need that for?”
“To settle this,” Mark barked.
“You don’t need that. Let’s settle this inside over a coffee. I’m buying.”
Mark’s heart finally stopped racing. He put the lug wrench away among the mess of phone books and walked into the coffee shop.
When they came to the table, they took turns explaining their side of the story:
When we wander through life treating assumptions as facts, we limit our capacity and restrain our possibilities. This negative behavior also creates division rather than unity—decreasing who we include as “us” and increasing who we exclude as “them.” (It might even lead to a fight in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot with a tire iron!)
And yet, when we instead take time to sincerely understand others, we create opportunities for connecting on the common ground that binds us together—opening the door for unity and compassion.
These are all things Mark already knew. As a phone book sales rep, he spent every work day selling listings to connect people with one another. His job was to literally help people connect! He already knew this, but sometimes humans get distracted and forget who they really are.
By the time the coffee was gone, the would-be enemies left the table as allies—and Mark even sold the guy a listing in the phone book!
It truly doesn’t take much for two people to find a connection, but it does require one key element: someone has to make the first move.
Before continuing his day, Mark took a moment to set his car in order by cleaning up the mess of phone books in the backseat—vowing to try and do better moving forward.
What can you do to remind yourself to go first when trying to connect with others?
I'm a mirror (and so are you).