How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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Body language and negotiating traffic
I was recently stuck at the edge of a stream of slow-moving cars, trying to get out of car park in Oxford. You probably know the situation: the cars are nose-to-tail with everyone studiously not looking at you as the refuse to let you in.
So what could I do? Other than wait for some kind (or guilty-feeling) soul, how could I persuade one on the drivers to let me in front of them?
What I did, most successfully, is as follows: First, I wound my window down to reduce the barriers between me and them. Then I waved in a friendly way at a selected driver. This movement caught his peripheral vision, even though he wasn't looking directly at me. Seeing someone wave in a friendly way then made him pause and try to figure out if he knew me, which required paying more attention to me. In that moment of confusion I gestured a request to let me out, with a palm-up request, pointing where I wanted to go, also with raised, questioning eyebrows. I then followed it up quickly, before he could figure out what I was doing, with a thumbs-up thanks as I smiled in a friendly way and inched forward a little. Caught in the trap, probably still unsure if he knew me, he could do nothing but smile back and wave me on. And with a further wave and thanks I was out!
Negotiating traffic is a perennial problem and I often use such methods, making eye contact and with friendly, gently assertive non-verbal requests. I never get cross and toot my horn but try to be elegantly persuasive such that people feel good about helping others. Try it out yourself! You can get to where you need, quicker and happier. And on today's frenetic roads, that can only be a good thing!
Hi, David. This is a nice post, I do something similar while cycling in
congested traffic. It always works.
A way to embarrass a driver is to point at him whilst looking at another driver and raising your eyebrows as if to say 'Just look at this idiot'. If windows are open, you can literally say 'Look at this!'. I'd do the pointing palm up, by the way, as it's less aggressive. You don't want to appear to be attacking the first driver as other drivers may side with them. Neutral or concerned expression with a hint of vulnerability may be more effective.
Drivers are always strangely concerned about what other drivers think of them. If they see you highlighting their errors to others they'll be significantly more embarrassed and likely ashamed.
Beg to differ David, sort of...
I'm wondering what Adrian's point would be to 'condemn' someone who
displays unwelcome behaviour on the road: why would one bother to condemn them?
At best it would distract you and them, increasing danger on the road; at worst
they are a mad axe murderer and will kill you (actually happened in Sydney NSW
where a motorist disagreed with a a released murderer who got out of his car and
stabbed the motorist to death). If some one 'disses' you on the road, just
remember, it takes all types, even ar**holes! Only you don't have to be one too.
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