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Ask Ariely: On Dreadful Driving, Levelheaded Loving, and Successful Standing

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

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Dear Dan,

My daily commute takes about 40 minutes each way—and it feels even longer because so many of my honking fellow drivers are selfish and aggressive. How can we get drivers to show more respect for those around them?

—Jamie 

In a word: convertibles. If we all drove rag tops with the roof down and no windows to shield us from fellow drivers, we would be far more aware of social norms and more likely to behave with some consideration for others.

Driving often brings out the worst in us, and it can be shocking to see how myopic, self-centered and unaware we become behind the wheel—from driving recklessly to cutting into lines to picking our nose.

All of this is much worse than our typical behavior when we, say, walk down a crowded public street. Pedestrians aren’t always polite, but they certainly don’t exhibit the same type of risk-taking and selfishness. Being in proximity to other people makes us more aware of our own standards of decency, and we behave accordingly.

Noise-blocking (and often darkened) windows and the controlled environment of a car create an illusion of isolation, separating us from other drivers. It lets us feel that our actions are unobserved, which makes it easier for us to ignore our own standards.

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Dear Dan,

How can I overcome my hot-and-cold attitudes toward my romantic partner? Sometimes I’m convinced that we aren’t compatible, but at other moments, I feel perfectly content with our relationship. Are these fluctuations normal?

—Tina 

All relationships oscillate between good and bad—it’s just part of the deal. The question for you is whether the downsides that you are experiencing are worth it for the upsides—and whether you can deal with the fluctuations.

What I can tell you is that you shouldn’t make big decisions about the future of your relationship when you’re experiencing its bad side. When we are in a particularly strong emotional state, we often find ourselves consumed by that emotion and incapable of seeing how we could feel differently.

But emotions are transitory, and they often change more quickly than we anticipate. So assess your relationship only when you are calm and content. You’re more likely to find the right answer when you’re thinking clearly, not emotionally. Good luck.

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Dear Dan,

I recently bought an adjustable standing-or-sitting desk, but I find that I lack the motivation to consistently stand. Any suggestions to get me on my feet more?

—Tim 

When you work at a standing desk, you sometimes naturally feel the need to sit down—and once you do, of course, you’ll rarely feel the urge to stand back up. I suggest setting a timer that reminds you once an hour to put your desk back in standing position, then stand for as long as you want.

This way, you won’t sit forever. Those hourly reminders to get vertical again will probably make you more likely to stand periodically, even when you aren’t feeling the urge.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.


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