What we can Learn about Emotional Intelligence from Road Bullying

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What we can Learn about Emotional Intelligence from Road Bullying


More and more, we hear (or even see with our own eyes) about the cases of traffic incidents known as road bullying. When we talk about the people who road bully or have road rage, we often associate it with someone with poor emotional intelligence or EQ. However, is it really that simple? What can the science teach us about it?

It’s difficult (and entirely irrational) to say that road bullying is the direct result of one specific thing. That’s because human behaviours are never that simple. So while you read this article, be aware that there can be other possible causes not listed.

Road bullying, unlike road rage, is a demonstration of one party being more aggressive to secure a position of dominance to force submission in another party in a vehicular scenario. This means that there would be two human parties relating directly. Road rage contrastingly, can be ‘unleashed’ towards a parked vehicle. So in this sense, road bullying and by extension, the response to road bullying, is of particular interest as far as emotional intelligence is concerned.

What is EQ and why do I need it?

Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, manage, and subsequently express one’s own emotions. In cases of road bullying and road rage alike, there is always a trigger that sets off the event. The awareness towards the trigger, and the management of the building emotion(s) that come up in response of that trigger are key to someone being emotionally intelligent in the scenario.

To help you understand this point and illustrate the example, let’s use a case that recently happened in Malaysia that was recorded via dashboard cam. You may read the original article and view the video here. While I am neither interested in who is wrong or right, nor am I familiar to either party involved or have had the opportunity to interview them, let us use the observable data to illustrate the point I’m making about triggers, awareness, and management.

Screenshot of road bullying

Screenshot of Malaysian road bullying video

Spot the Trigger(s)

As mentioned, road bullying is an event set off by a trigger. Here’s what we can observe.

In the video we see the ‘green Perodua Myvi car’ driving aggressively cutting lanes, and the ‘dash-cam car’ to avoid a long queue. This is one trigger. With that awareness that the Myvi driver is aggressive, dash-cam driver follows behind. Now, the Myvi driver then suddenly cuts right at the end of the lane to jump queue with a sudden brake, causing dash-cam driver to suddenly swerve left. Dash-cam driver (presumably) lets loose a long toot of their car horn, probably in protest to the suddenness of it, and then carries on their way.

Here’s where the Myvi driver then decides to chase down dash-cam driver. We then can see there were several attempts to dangerously overtake with sudden braking. We can even see an abnormal amount of persistence in tail gating dash-cam driver despite an effort to take a completely different path in order to diffuse the situation. Finally, we see the Myvi cornering the dash-cam car and threatening to reverse directly into them repeatedly before being told off by another driver.

Awareness and Management

There are many points here that could have been considered as a trigger points for either one. Either one could have been more aware of their emotions building up and learn to manage the way they expressed it differently. Yes, that does sound like effort. It does sound like work. Just like it sounds like the same amount of effort it takes to figure our a simple sudoku or crossword puzzle. IQ and EQ takes effort to develop if you currently don’t seem to have a predetermined disposition for it. And that is ultimately the whole point of developing emotional intelligence – learning to manage ourselves better to handle ourselves better…because the opposite…is having a meltdown and then regretting it because of internet backlash.

Personally, I disagree entirely that the fault was entirely on either the Myvi driver for the over reaction or the Dash-cam driver for honking. Looking who to dump the fault on isn’t You could argue about who has more wrongs done, but learning how to count and weight wrongs isn’t the point of this article, and it certainly doesn’t help you develop better emotional intelligence. Again, this isn’t about right or wrong. In truth, we don’t even know if there was anything preceding this dash cam video. There’s no evidence that the incident between the two didn’t started much earlier than what the video shows. And as observers, we need to be aware of that, before we let our emotions react.

Wait. Do you realise that this means…

That this in itself, is another trigger that we ourselves need to be aware of. Logically, we do not know either one of these people, nor were we in any way capable of knowing what is REALLY happening. We only see behaviours and perhaps because we are so conditioned to lash out, making snap judgments without all the facts, we thoughtlessly join a chorus of internet shaming. But before you join others (who aren’t interested in developing their EQ at this moment in time) to cast your judgement on social media as ‘one of those keyboard warriors’, spare a moment of awareness now to change your state by refocusing on what is more important and what you can do to be better.

Emotional intelligence isn’t difficult at all. Just as you would be tempted to rob a bank because you really want money, you become aware that such thoughts and actions are selfish, immoral, and self-detrimental. You learned to be smarter. To stop yourself to think. Practicing self-awareness for emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, etc is really no different. Having said that, it’s important to understand first why having emotions in the first place is useful and why subverting ALL emotions is bad for your emotional health. But that is a topic for another article.

Happy National Day to Singaporeans everywhere and enjoy practicing good emotional health wherever you are!

By | 2018-02-09T13:49:00+00:00 August 9th, 2017|Current Issues, Emotional Intelligence|0 Comments