7 Things I Learned About Expressing Frustration from a State Trooper
Most leaders don’t know how to best use and effectively express frustration.
Unexpressed frustration turns into more frustration. Poorly expressed frustration makes matters worse.
Image from Google Maps
A State Trooper pulled me over just after the Harrisburg East Toll Plaza, Exit 247. I was merging onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
He had a violator pulled over on the entrance ramp. (See map.) I saw the blue lights flashing. As I approached, I saw the violator begin to move forward and turn on his direction signal. I should have slowed down.
Apparently the violator saw me coming and moved right to allow me to pass. I sped up, passed both vehicles, and entered the highway. Moments later the Trooper was behind me.
Standing at the opened passenger window he showed me how to express anger like a leader.
“I just had a conversation with some Toll Plaza workers about drivers who put people at risk by speeding through Toll Plazas. Workers walk between toll booths while drivers speed through the EZ-Pass lanes at 35 mph.” (The limit is 5 mph.) He went on.
“You saw my lights and the driver pulling out, but you blew right past us. You put yourself and others at risk.”
“Be more careful while you’re driving,” he said, as he turned to walk away.
Seven lessons in expressing frustration:
- He didn’t raise his voice, frown, or act aggressively.
- He got right to the point. He didn’t ask for my license and registration.
- He said what he saw.
- He told a personal story about others. Leaderly frustration focuses on the best interest of others. It’s not about you.
- He was brief.
- He said what he wanted.
- He didn’t belittle or attack me.
Use the energy of frustration to address issues like a leader.
What are some leaderly ways to use or express frustration?
What concerns you about leaders who express frustration?
Wow! And I glean from your narrative, it was not confrontational. Short, sweet, and to the point. Reminds me of one of your previous posts where you say you can communicate more and more effectively with shorter communications.
Thanks HP. Yes, you are correct. He was calm, cool, and collected… and yet, I knew he was also frustrated. No confrontation.
How many marriages might be improved or saved if husbands and wives learned how to properly handle their frustrations. Thanks, Dan. Merry Christmas. Your posts often bless me and others as I share on Facebook. May the Lord give you a happy and prosperous new year.
I’m working on that in my marriage as well. But it seems that when I’m not worried about the things she’s stressed over, she thinks I don’t love her. 🙂 I need to work on letting her express herself and get the pressure off, so she can feel like she’s not crazy.
Thanks Chris. I start to see the importance and power of listening. In the case of the State Trooper, there was no listening. However, we aren’t going to be in relationship in the future. (At least I hope not.)
Thanks Pete. I think the things we bury tend to dig themselves out and show up later. We should be patient and forbear. However, somethings just keep coming back.
Learing to focus on what you want, more than what you don’t want, seems really important when frustrated.
I love the leadership lessons as shared from every day life! A great example of how to communicate a message effectively.
Sorry. Replied to the wrong comment, and I don’t know how to delete. 🙂
Thanks Rick! Cheers
It’s a great story about leadership, and also a story about privilege, Dan. You don’t mention whether you received a ticket, but it sounds like perhaps you did not. We know you didn’t get dragged from your car, whupped upside your head, or jailed, as might have happened to others in your situation.
I’m very, very glad you lived to tell this story, and I could learn its excellent lessons, but the contrast remains. And what, BTW were you driving?
@jezra Kaye, I’m very sorry for how you’re treated. The treatment itself would be bad enough without being distracted by the frustration that others have it better than you. It’s surely not fair. But the real curse is worrying about something you can’d do anything about. If you can’t get past that, you’ll have a very low ceiling in what you can accomplish.
Think about the people you’re around. When I’m around someone who’s hung up on how they feel they’re treated, I might feel bad for them, but I certainly don’t want to get caught up in their negativity, and I know they’re not helping the people around them.
On the other hand, when I see someone who’s leading with focus and generosity, using the principles in this blog, no matter their gender or skin color, I don’t feel sorry for them…I just follow.
Thanks Jezra. I did not recieve the ticket. It’s great that you bring up this point.
I was driving. I was alone.
I’ve always owned a pickup. I was on my way to visit a client while driving my 2012 Toyota Pickup Truck. (Silver, extended cab, 4WD)
As a young LEO, I learned that you either express things to correct behavior or ticket. You don’t do both. What would your response have been if he handed you the ticket and said the same things to you? As leaders, we have to correct behavior, do we follow a legalistic style and write up every performance or rule expectation or do we look folks in the eye, tell them what we need to tell them and move on?
Thanks Joe. Love your insight of either ticket or correct behavior, don’t do both. Very helpful.
Simply Put! Label it …and move on.
You didn’t get a ticket, instead, a gift. Thank you, and Merry Holliday Dan.
Thanks Melrose. A healthy reminder to drive safely is a good thing. 🙂
Let me see this applied when dealing with a company like Charter / Spectrum where they combine really poorly executed robo calls with reps who are prevented from actually doing anything by poor quality and design of systems. I HATE calling them for anything and they ALWAYS succeed in making me angry because they simply cannot do things with quality. It is so bad that I blog about it.
I have not learned ANYTHING about dealing with frustration in dealing with them, only that my trigger point for anger changes. I EXPECT them to be awful and they always EXCEED that expectation.
Now, to improve things, they are changing their name from Charter to Spectrum, apparently trying to fool some people like they are some new company. They ask you to do a survey after each call but it is always focused on the person, and not the quality of service they are able to actually deliver. AND there is no mechanism for giving the company feedback, apparently. No email address, just “no-reply” emails they send you.
I am trying to learn something about dealing with bad systems but learning that only artificial intelligence will have to be better than dealing with roadblocked frustrated customer service reps there.
Oft times, the bad behavior of the people is caused by really poor quality of systems, processes and equipment. Teach me something, Dan!! (grin)
Thanks Dr. Scott. Are you frustrated?
I suppose another lesson here is how to recieve frustration from others. Are we made better or do we make excuses, hide behind systems, or blame others. 🙂
Always a pleasure!
These seven tips can be used by both sides of the discussion. They lead to a respectful and productive conversation, not a battle. Maybe I should keep this in mind as I do my last minute Christmas shopping and deal with tired, overworked store clerks and cashiers. Maybe my tone of respect will change the quality of the interaction. Happy Holidays to All!
Thanks Beth. There can be some real frustration during the holidays. Sometimes its just about being tired. All the more reason for us to take care of ourselves so that we don’t fall into the dark side of frustration.
Dan, Thanks for sharing! A good reminder that anger can used for good 🙂
Great example and lessons.
The trooper was direct and did a great job relaying his point. YOU also were a great listener and you were open to his message. You know what happens when that is not the case and those who should listen, do not and focus only on making THEIR point.
Both of you deserve kudo’s on that one.
Dealing with law enforcement is always a “humbling experience”, surely a wake-up call for “those who know better but have chose to push their limits”. It was even more humbling when you come home from work and your fine is sitting on your supper plate and your father is looking at you and saying nothing, but his eyes say everything.
Sometimes you just have to “listen and not speak”, the message was sent!.
I needed to hear this today.Thanks for helping me to reframe my thinking and my approach for a specific situation. I am aware that I am showing anger in a work situation and this is the coaching voice I needed to hear.
I want to grow in this area. Thank you.
Something to consider is a difference between law enforcement officers and many leaders is that for an LEO, if talking doesn’t work, he can chuck you in a cell. For many leaders, all they have is talk.
I love this insightful piece, and I reposted it on my Facebook page as encouragement to parents to use the same skills to express important points to their children and teach them to think through their choices more carefully.
Wow! This is an awesome story! Improperly handled frustration has lead to more disasters than the we would care to count! This trooper showed remarkable control over his emotions! This is a good lesson!
Yes. Simply expressing the facts of a situation can go a long way. No one can argue with facts 🙂