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Learn to Merge in Three Not-so-easy Steps

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Seriously, does nobody know how the merge lane works? There is an underpass that I travel by daily which has two left turn lanes. At least a couple of times a week someone, who is in the lane that ends and who should be merging, holds their position in the closing lane even if it may cause an accident. One day I saw a car hold its position when a school bus was in the main merge lane. A SCHOOL BUS! I was so frustrated by the uneducated or impatient lane merger. Then, this thought came to me, “WHO is in the lane is more important than where you are going.” Those kids on the school bus are more important than your schedule!

We can apply this to our aspirations, goals, attitudes, and daily lives as well. As important as these may be, the WHO that is in the lane may be more important than where you are going.

Consider three steps to use in learning to merge. At times, these steps are easy, but at other times they are difficult, because we are dealing with people. It helps to always keep the WHO in mind.

The first step is to pay attention to the opportunities before you. There are moments presented to us in which we can take the opportunity to merge or hold our position at the risk of ourselves and everyone around us. “I want it my way!” At other moments we may need to pump the breaks and wait for that opportunity to merge, giving preference to the school bus already in the lane. Those kids must get where they are going safely, and your plans should bow to the higher good. It does not mean you don't get to go to your destination, it just means you might not get there as fast as you wanted to. Either way, we need to be aware of which lane we are in, who is around us, and how our moves will impact everyone involved. We can use our opportunities to add value to those around us, or at least not diminish the value of or damage others. We can take risks and still care for the safety of those around us. See opportunity clearly. Does it add value or subtract?

The second step is to put your opinion in check long enough to evaluate the merge lanes. We have often heard, “You need to run in your own lane.” There are times, however, when there is only one lane to run in and we need to learn to merge. I don't mean adopting other people’s opinions but making space to consider others’ opinions or at least respect their right to hold an opinion that is different than yours. Think about our election cycles and how contentious conversation can be even among friends and family. Just because you believe you are right, and others are wrong doesn't mean you should not be able to dialogue with others with civility. Occasionally, be willing to listen to someone else’s opinion. You do not have to shout above others or control conversation to protect the position of your opinion. You do not have to agree but you can care enough to listen. Who knows? You might learn why others think differently than you do. What life experiences played into forming this opinion? Understanding the why might help the merge, especially in work and family situations in which you are going to merge at some point whether you like it or not.

The third step is the offering. Occasionally you may be in the lead lane and in a position to offer space in your lane to someone else with the urge to merge. Offering a space to someone who may otherwise get stuck is not just a noble gesture. It keeps the entire system flowing properly. Offering another the opportunity to blend in and even get ahead of you is good for all the traffic. If everyone were willing to offer another person a position ahead from time to time, the blending would be so much more fluid and seamless. I am not talking about compromising your values or your morals, but I am also not really talking about traffic. We all live on this planet together and we need to learn to operate in love, understanding and value our fellow human beings.

There are only so many travel lanes in this life. We will travel along life with people we disagree with. Some of those people will be your family, neighbors, or co-workers. We can improve our community, or even our own hearts by learning to merge and remembering to consider WHO is in the lane.

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