Have you ever called someone an idiot before? Either to this person’s face or behind their back? I’m going to assume the answer is yes because there are few people, if any, who can honestly say they’ve never called someone an idiot (or a moron, or stupid, etc).

I remember a time when I asked a group this question and one of the participants (let’s pretend his name’s John) shared his story about a time when he called the driver of another car an idiot, when this driver cut John off. John was so enraged with the other driver that he stormed out of his car at the first red light, slammed the other driver’s hood and was ready to give him an ear full. Moments later, he looked into the other driver’s car and saw a woman in labour.

Two things became clear to John in that moment:

  1. The other driver was probably only focused on getting his pregnant wife to the hospital as quickly as possible.
  2. In John’s words: “Only one person was an idiot in that moment and it wasn’t the other driver.”

Here’s the thing: it’s not okay to drive dangerously and road safety should always be a priority. It’s also not fair to assume someone is an idiot, especially when oftentimes there’s more to the story. Imagine if John would have said to himself “this other driver must be having a bad start to his day, to the point where he’s in such a rush to get to where he needs to be.”

Getting into an empathetic mindset starts with:

  1. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before reacting.
  2. Feeling what someone else is feeling.

The benefits aren’t limited to your personal and professional relationships. You may also become a healthier person because you will no longer be dwelling in your anger. In an article published by The Harvard Business Review, Dr. Murray A. Mittleman claims “Anger causes an outpouring of stress hormones like adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise. It also makes your blood more likely to clot, which is especially dangerous if your arteries are narrowed by cholesterol-laden plaque.”

So let’s all take a moment to promise ourselves that we will no longer call people idiots. Avoid this visceral reaction. We will all be better off for it!

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