How You Drive is How You Live: Driving Emotional Intelligence | 066

Driving Emotional Intelligence. We all know people – friends, family – we wish would drive differently, with less hostility.

Armed with years of research, guest Keith Cunningham unpacks aggressive exchanges on the road. 

He discusses the link between aggressive exchanges and our internal stories (driving emotional intelligence) and the link to how we can save about 3000 lives each year by having two fewer aggressive exchanges each day.


01:01 Introduction 

02:00 Aggressive exchanges – what they are and who participates in them
  • Aggressive exchanges are the outward manifestation of what is happening inside each one of us. 
  • Examples of aggressive exchanges – tailgating, speeding, racing, inappropriate use of high beams, swearing at other drivers, rude gestures, not giving way to traffic. 
  • There are about three and a half thousand aggressive exchanges per driver in South Africa.

06:45 How can we make less aggressive exchanges?

By being aware of what’s going on inside us – our thoughts, our self-talk, our emotions, triggers, the meaning we give things – paying attention to them, and asking questions such as:

  • Why did I react in that way? 

We certainly have no control over whether somebody else changes. But if we want to experience the road differently, we need to go inside ourselves, become aware, and pay attention to what thoughts, meanings, emotions, behaviours we need to change. 

08:55 Using the change model

The change model consists of awareness, attention, intention, and action. 

1 Awareness

It says, “In this area of your life, you may have higher risk behaviours.” There’s going to be a little bit of denial because it’s really difficult to say, “Well, maybe I’m not the driver that I thought I was.” 

2. Attention

Once we enter the car with awareness and we start paying attention to what’s going on, with attention comes consciousness.

  • Does that emotion, that feeling, that behaviour serve me?
  • Is the belief that is driving my emotion true?

3. Intention

And once I’ve paid a bit of attention, and move into intention, moving to exploration: 

  • What behaviours, thoughts, meanings don’t serve me? 
  • What do I want to change them to?

4. Action

Whether you’re in awareness, attention, or intention, every time you drive, you move into the Action quadrant, and that is where those aggressive exchanges are eliminated.

11:50 We can revert back to our subconscious beliefs when we’re not paying attention 

12:22 Letting our emotions dissipate

Jill Bolte Taylor wrote a book “My Stroke of Insight” based on her own experience of having a brain aneurysm. She mentioned that when you are triggered and you feel that intensity of the emotion in your body, if one can be aware of it and notice it and validate it and just be with it for 90 seconds, it actually dissipates. 

Acting when triggered puts you in a heightened aggressive state

If you are triggered and you instead act on it and reinforce it with a story and a justification as to why that behaviour is okay in that moment, it puts you in a heightened aggressive state. 

The consequence of that heightened aggressive state and prolonged stress in life is ill health. But its impact behind the wheel is potentially instantaneous and fatal.

14:24 Link between aggressive exchanges and fatalities

“Just by each of us reducing our aggressive exchanges per day, it’s amazing how quickly you reduce the fatalities.” – Keith

We can save ~ 3000 lives each year by doing two less aggressive exchanges per day

In South Africa, if the 12 and a half million of us (drivers) reduce our aggressive exchanges by two a day, each year that works out to 2,957 fewer fatalities; 9,473 fewer serious injuries; 21,100 fewer minor injuries; and over 105,000 fewer damage-only incidents. 

16:51 How we drive shines a light on our life’s story

“I believe that driving is just a microcosm of the greater society.” – Keith

“I’m thinking about shopping in the supermarkets where we’re pushing trolleys and how often there’s aggression in the aisles.” – Liz

“I was an aggressive trolley pusher. I got cheesed off with people standing and looking around and I can’t get past. But I use that time now to calm myself because I have to calm myself and breathe.” – Keith

18:30 Goal – Make two fewer aggressive exchanges per day

Each one of us who drives a motor vehicle, take that initiative and that responsibility to be part of something that positively impacts not only yourself, but every other person, as a human on the road.

20:43 First Step – Go to Driver Assess Live and take the Driver Behaviour Profiler

You will get a personalized, comprehensive report. Go through it.

“There’s a series of videos you can look at to help you interpret your reports. There are podcasts and blogs that are available as well. 

Really, you’re the one who can interpret what that report says, and the only place you can do that is in the driver’s seat.” – Keith

  • “By creating self-awareness in one’s own driving story, it really does shine the light on one’s story for life,” Liz Cunningham
  • “We feel good when we do good,” Liz Cunningham
  • “If we don’t have awareness, we can’t make change,” Keith Cunningham
  • “One person’s intention and conviction can really make a difference and create a movement that impacts the world,” Liz Cunningham
  • “The time you spend in the motor car becomes an extension of any EQ classroom you may have ever been in.” Liz Cunningham
  • “Whatever books you’ve read, or workshops you’ve attended, podcasts you’ve listened to, you can start consciously and mindfully applying the theory of emotional intelligence to the practice of driving your car and making constructive positive changes.” Liz
Check out these other episodes on Driving EQ
Resources Mentioned:

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

Download the Change Model

Download this episode on Driving Emotional Intelligence


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