Consider this real-life example that I experienced just last weekend:
I was battling traffic on a Saturday morning to get to the bank. I had just dropped my son off at school for a theater rehearsal, and taken my daughter to the library for a book club meeting. My toddler was fussing in the back seat, I was fretting over the engine noise in my vehicle which was scheduled to go to the mechanic on Monday morning, and loud and uncomfortable growling noises from my stomach suddenly made me realize that I hadn’t taken time to eat breakfast as I ran out the door.
When I arrived at the ATM drive-through lane, I pulled past the first ATM machine to the one at the far end of the lane (a SOCIALLY EFFECTIVE RESPONSE, given that the instructions posted on the wall indicate that this is the expectation of bank employees, and I know it’s the courteous thing to do in case someone else arrives wanting to use the other ATM). When I pulled next to the second ATM, I noted that a sign was posted on the screen indicating that this ATM was out of service! I looked in my rear-view mirror, noted that no one was at the ATM behind me, and began driving in reverse to return to that functioning ATM. Suddenly another vehicle pulled in, and even though I was just a few feet from my destination, that driver insisted on forcing me forward so that he could get to that ATM.
Mumbling words of frustration about inconsiderate drivers who don’t care about “social niceties” or even unspoken social rules, I drove around the drive-thru section of the bank and returned to the entrance of the ATM lane. By then, the second driver had also pulled through to the first ATM (I guess he had some awareness of courtesy and social expectations, after all), and had discovered the reason I had been struggling when he first arrived. Touché! As I pulled gleefully behind him to the first ATM, that driver suddenly put his vehicle in reverse, and began vying for the spot to which I was heading. Instead of giving up and driving around like I had, he put his arm out his window and motioned me to move back, as he continued to drive his vehicle closer to mine. When he had edged me out far enough, he got out of his vehicle and used the ATM.
By then, I was hungry, stressed, frustrated, AND angry! As he completed his business, I noted rather smugly that the other driver’s vehicle sported a bumper sticker from my favorite Christian radio station. I reasoned that because I wasn’t advertising that I had that in common with him, I was justified in not giving him quite enough room to position his vehicle directly in front of the ATM machine.
As I finally made my deposit at the ATM and prepared to drive away, my brain cleared enough to recognize that I was indeed “behaving badly.” I had allowed my emotions, sensory functioning, and immediate needs (hunger, stress, the desire to hurry home, etc.) to cause me to “meltdown,” avoiding the strategies available to me, and generating AUTHENTIC RESPONSES instead of SOCIALLY EFFECTIVE RESPONSES. I could have reminded myself that it would only take a few minutes out of my day to wait patiently for the other driver to complete his banking. I could have used calming techniques to keep from getting so agitated. I could have coached myself to “take the high road,” reminding myself that the other driver was experiencing the same frustrations with the out-of-order ATM that I had, and was resorting to the exact same strategy I had attempted just moments before. And I could have been more aware of my toddler in the back seat, who carefully observes my responses (good and bad), and often emulates them!
The Social Response Pyramid™ helped me settle down and return to the rest of my day a little less frustrated, and more prepared to be SOCIALLY EFFECTIVE. It also helped me coach myself toward choices I hope to make if I’m ever in this situation (or similar situations) again in the future.
No, a “Social Coach” doesn’t always have all the answers, nor does a social coach always apply the answers in effective ways. But this social coach is committed to using “lead coaching, peer coaching, and self-coaching” to continually strive to be more socially effective, hopefully making this world a better place for myself and all those with whom I interact!
I hope you’ll join me in that!