I’ve finally found it! The excuse to shoehorn (to use the current vernacular) into my blog two of my favourite bugbears: swimming pools and the motorways around Madrid – or rather, what some people do and the need to learn to give feedback based on behaviour.

What prompted this was an article on self-awareness in the CIPD’s magazine, People Management, by an organisational psychologist called Dr Tasha Eurich – how to improve it through feedback centred on behaviour.

The rule in the swimming pool is ‘Keep right’. I’m often alone in a lane and I follow the rule, which sends a clear signal to a second swimmer: ‘I’m following the rule so I hope you don’t stop and ask me that each of us stays on one side and goes up and down that side’. Even then I get stopped a lot (they tell me it’s easier for when swimmers go at different speeds).

I don’t like it because only two people can swim in the lane and it would oblige a third swimmer to stop us and ask us to follow the rule. Personally I feel uncomfortable when I need to do it. For that reason, apart from following a rule that seems made for everybody, I keep to the right.

What has that got to do with self-awareness?

I mentioned it to someone I know one day when I coincided with him in the pool. I explained why I preferred to follow the rule. Reaction? “Wow. You’re right. I’ve never thought of it like that before. Of course, it affects another swimmer trying to get in.”

Having to say ‘No’ when a stranger asks you to go up and down the same side is tricky because, deep down, if I say that “it seems selfish to do it like that” (which is exactly what it appears to me!) then I’m calling him or her selfish.

This is a clear case then that if you learn to give feedback (nothing about suppositions re their motives, or judgements or unsolicited advice) you will avoid a sterile argument about whether it’s common sense or not to go up and down the same side when there’s only two of you (which is what happened to me one day when I didn’t do it too well).

And the motorways? Some times you see people who go at 100kph (speed limit 120kph) in the 3rd lane of a four-lane motorway around Madrid with nobody on their right. I’ve heard “I get into the 3rd lane and that way I don’t bother anybody.”

It’s another example of low self-awareness. The effect of this behaviour is to oblige a driver coming in the 1st lane, on the right, to contemplate something illegal: undertaking.

Getting parents, teachers, trainers to give good feedback seems to me critical for a society that aims to advance humanistically (I also hereby ask the Spanish Dirección General del Tráfico to have more educational traffic campaigns along the lines of what I’m talking about 🙂 ).

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