Do you judge others by how they drive? I admit it: I do. I feel that how we behave when we’re driving in traffic is pretty analogous to how we work and even how we live our lives. So what kind of driver are you? And how do you view those other drivers around you who may not be driving as mindfully as you are?


A client of mine shared with me that “It’s hard when I’m the one that’s trying to be emotionally intelligent and communicate effectively with everyone else, but the other people aren’t trying to do the same with me. I feel like I’m doing all the work!”


I understood exactly where my client was coming from with that statement. It can feel a little bit like, Hey, it’s not fair! I’m doing my part, but what about everyone else? And my mind immediately went to the person who chooses to drive defensively in traffic.


If it’s the right thing to do, how come I’m the only one doing it?


When we study to get our driver’s license, some version of Thou shalt drive defensively gets drilled into our psyche. And yet, even though all of us had to answer questions about driving defensively to get our license, when we’re actually driving out in the real world, it doesn’t seem like most people are driving defensively, does it? It’s easy to tell ourselves, Well if no one else is driving defensively, then why should I?


And it’s a good question: Why should you when others aren’t? For those people who choose to drive defensively, you need to come up with your own answer to that question. And I don’t think there’s just one right answer; some might be:

  • I can’t control what others are doing; I can only control what I do
  • I do it because I want to get to my destination safe and sound
  • If I drive defensively, maybe I can inspire others to do the same

Whatever your reason for deciding to drive defensively, that reason should help you be at ease with doing it. Because if you’re driving defensively but constantly wishing that others “had the decency” to do as you do, that’s not a sustainable frame of mind when you’re driving. You’ll likely appear irritated to other drivers, and you’ll give yourself an ulcer.


Get clear on why YOU make the effort to communicate effectively


So let’s translate these ideas to communicating effectively and intentionally at work. Once you learn what makes for good, effective communication and add those tools to your toolbox at work, you need to use them for reasons that satisfy you. Maybe your reasons for communicating assertively and with high emotional intelligence, even when most people in your work circles don’t, sound like this:

  • I can’t control what others are doing; I can only control what I do
  • I do it because I want to  achieve my objectives in the most productive way possible
  • If I communicate effectively and with intention, maybe I can inspire others to do the same

And as with the defensive driving analogy, you need to be OK with the heightened awareness that comes with good communication skills and with the effort it takes to use them. If you’re constantly begrudging that you always seem to be the one who’s communicating assertively and with intention while others fumble around the best they can, you’ll likely come off as someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else. More importantly, though, you won’t be happy.


Just as driving mindfully and defensively in traffic takes skill, awareness, and energy, so does communicating effectively at work. This week, take a moment to think about how you view the effort you put into communicating effectively with those you work with. Are you clear on why you make the effort? Do you do it happily or begrudgingly? What reason would make you even more willing to make the effort it takes to communicate with greater awareness and intention than the average person around you?


Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want. If you’re interested in working with Guillermo, sign up for a free meeting to explore how he can help.