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Kicking Sidewalk Rage to the Curb

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The other day I was walking down a busy Manhattan sidewalk and it was filled with tourists looking up at skyscrapers and locals either walking with a purpose or taking their sweet time. In the matter of walking 10 blocks I witnessed a man cursing just because someone bumped into him, and another person screaming and yelling simply because the person in front of him was walking slowly and someone cursed at me because apparently I was in his way. Sadly, I witness this on a daily basis in New York City. I recognize that New Yorkers are far less patient than people in other cities and apparently terrible at coping with stress, but this sidewalk rage phenomenon is happening more and more and not just in New York. I was recently in Toronto and witnessed it, too.

Simply put, sidewalk rage is characterized by feeling angered by people who move at a slower pace than you. This produces a hostile response such as bumping into others, cursing, hogging the sidewalk and really just being a disrespectful jerk. Fact is, the pedestrian pace in big cities is slow by virtue of the density of people, so unless there's a mass exodus or you're moving to farm country that won't change.

Sidewalk ragers have an idea of how they think others should be: keep to the right, walk at a certain pace and keep moving. In a perfect world, or the military, people would follow such etiquette. But there are no universal rules. People can walk as they wish. The difference between a healthy pedestrian and a rager is the latter has a negative view of others, is overly sensitive, over generalizes and blows things out of proportion. The rager might think: "I'm going to be so late" or "this sucks." Angry venting only reinforces these thoughts and makes them occur more automatically.

Here's how to kick your rage to the curb:
  • Change your thinking. "Sure, it's no fun, but this is one of the pitfalls of living in a crowded city."
  • Don't personalize things. Rather than thinking "What an idiot this person is for walking so slowly right in front of me," look at alternative explanations such as he's lost, or he doesn't see you.
  • Walk tall and look straight ahead to get a full view of all angles ahead of you.
  • Use a less-traveled alternative route.
  • Keep in mind, the greater the population, the slower the pace.
  • For good measure, remember the person you're cursing could be someone's mother or grandmother or father or grandfather. In a similar situation, think how you would want yours to be treated.

For more tips and advice on how to deal with lifestyle issues and fears check out my new book BE FEARESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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