3 Things People Should Never Say to Those with Driving Fears

by on August 31, 2015

worst phrasesPeople who don’t suffer from driving fears, anxiety or phobias can say the most inappropriate things to those that do. It’s not that they are intentionally trying to be nasty, they may simply have no clue what it’s like to suffer from such maladies.

Driving Fears 101

Before we dive into the list, let’s first look at “normal” fear and anxiety versus the level of fear and anxiety those typically suffering from driving fears and phobias may face.

  • “Normal” fear: Being nervous about driving on icy or snowy roads.
  • Driving fear or anxiety: Refusing to drive at all throughout the entire winter, or going into a panic if it starts to flurry even when on the bus.
  • “Normal” fear: Not being totally comfortable driving down dark roads at night.
  • Driving fear or anxiety: Refusing to take a job that lets you out after dark.
  • “Normal” fear: Having a little anxiety when you’re driving unfamiliar roads.
  • Driving fear or anxiety: Not going anywhere out of your comfort zone, ever, whether you’re driving or simply in the car.

The Worst Things to Say

“I know how you feel.”

Unless you’ve suffered from the exact same issues, you probably don’t know how the person feels. Just because you’ve suffered from a bit of hesitation, fear or anxiety while driving down icy, dark or unfamiliar roads doesn’t mean you understand the daily struggle this person may face trying to overcome his or her driving fears. It’s better to admit you have no idea how they feel but offer your listening ear and support as needed.

“Just calm down.”

Here’s a secret: if a person plagued with driving fears, anxiety or phobias could calm down they wouldn’t be plagued with those fears, anxiety or phobias. Suffering from driving fears is not a choice, and the person did not voluntarily sign up to experience high levels of anxiety and panic.

A more useful tactic would be to instead let the person know you’re there to help them in any way possible, something that’s best to mention in advance when they’re in a more relaxed state instead of at the height of panic or stress.

“That really could happen, couldn’t it?”

Pointing out that their greatest driving fears could come true is akin to throwing oil on a fire. All you’re doing here is fueling the flames for an all-out panic attack. Instead of agreeing with the worst case scenario in the person’s head, you can validate it while still not judging it. If someone’s worried about driving over bridges that might collapse, you don’t want to tell him or her that bridges do indeed collapse.

You can instead validate the person’s fears with something like: “It sounds like the thought of driving over a bridge is making you feel anxious and worried about it collapsing. It seems like this is really upsetting you.”

The bottom line is to think before you speak — and you sometimes need not say anything at all. Even if you don’t have a solution to the person’s driving fears, anxiety or phobia, listening with empathy and compassion can be a great help.

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