I went for a walk this afternoon, along a highway near work. As I approached a road leading form the highway into a neighborhood, I saw a car approaching. I have never been a really good judge of speed or distance, but the car seemed to be going a bit slow for the highway, so I slowed my pace a bit, in case the car was turning right into the neighborhood. As I reach the cross street, the car's speed seemed constant, and was certainly close enough to be signaling the right-hand turn. I saw no turn signal, so I stepped into the road and began to cross. Now the car began to obviously slow down. and at the point I was 3/4 of the way across the street, the turn signal came on. The car was maybe 20 feet from the turn when this happened.
My immediate thought was "Stupid nitwit. If you would have engaged your turn signal on time, I would have known, and waited to cross the street!" I don't know if that showed on my face. I made eye contact with the driver. She had one for those formal, half-smiles that could have meant anything.
The result was either she got stinky-eye or neutral face from me, and then continued either oblivious, indifferent, or perhaps sad/angry/indignant.
Two second later The thought occurred to me, what if she saw me, and slowed down to let me cross, so I wouldn't have to wait for her?
So I started evaluating all the possibilities, She was either oblivious, courteous, or a poorly trained driver. My response could have been either condescending (what I thought), neutral (what I think I did), or gracious (i.e I could have smiled and waved, maybe mouthed a 'thank-you').
Regardless of her motivation, a condescending response provides only a neutral or negative outcome.
A neutral response, probably a neutral outcome, maybe a negative outcome, if she was oblivious, or stupid, and she was annoyed that I was in her way.
If I had gone with the positive response... well... she still might have been annoyed, or she might nave not cared on bit. Or maybe, it might have acted as a positive reinforce for courteous, encouraging further courteous acts. Maybe it wold have just given her a warm fuzzy to have someone smile, and then maybe she would returned home in a better mood, more easily able to deal with the miss her children had made in her absense.
In other words, regardless of her motivation, the probability of the best outcome would arise from me assuming the most positive motivation on her part, and responding accordingly.
Lesson learned. I hope. Now the trick is developing my ability to identify the best motivation option more quickly (was a a few seconds late this time). Call it my "Postive Motivation Assumption Reflex" (P-MAR?). Any suggestions?