Getting angry? Think best possible motives

Commentary by Derold Bates, Ed.S

While driving down a busy freeway in Tacoma, Wash., a new model pickup came past me driving on the right shoulder. The driver pulled in my lane immediately in front of me. I had to hit my brakes to avoid a collision. My first impulse was to blast my horn at him and race ahead of him and cut him off, while giving him some choice words I had saved for just such a time as this.

Then it hit me! Why have two people on the road acting like idiots! One is enough!

At that moment my BPM, or  Best Possible Motive was born. Once I made the decision to not retaliate I said to myself, “Wait a minute, I know nothing about this man.” He might be rushing to the hospital for a medical emergency. Maybe his daughter is sick? Considering those possible motives, I didn’t want revenge. I was calmed and that prevented me from retaliating in anger and possibly creating a road rage incident.

It seems that when someone does something that offends us, we automatically assign the worst possible motive and want to give him a piece of our minds or punch him. By assigning the best possible motive we can think of we take a lot of stress away from ourselves, preventing anger and avoiding making a bad situation worse. It is actually freeing us from being controlled by our anger.

Best possible motives can be used whenever someone does something that irritates us or seems stupid to us. For example there are some parents who use anger to control their children. This works temporarily but then it becomes a lose/lose situation.

A 7-year-old boy is tearing out pages of his sister’s coloring book to make paper airplanes.


While from the parent’s point of view the angry outburst worked, the boy sees things differently.

Boy: “I don’t see what the problem is. She never uses the coloring book anymore. Why am I always the one who gets yelled at?”

Where could this parent have used a BPM and prevented anger? The parent could have assumed the boy didn’t know that he shouldn’t tear the book apart. Then the parent could have used the boy’s bad action as a teaching moment. By assigning the Best Possible Motive the parent corrects the bad action while creating a win/win situation for both of them.

If you find yourself wanting to yell at your child to correct a bad behavior, stop and try calmly using a BPM. You will be pleased with the results for you and your child.

Since that incident with the driver of the pickup on the freeway, I began to share the idea of using BPMs. Many of the people I talked to have came to me later and said, “Thank you, for telling me about BPMs. I tried it and it works. I didn’t get upset. It was fun.”

Because of this positive feedback, I decided to share the idea of using BPMs with each of you in the hopes that you will find the idea helpful when you feel like getting angry at someone. Perhaps you can change some angry feelings for some more pleasant ones. Possibly, instead of having a bad day, you can have a good day.

More examples of Best Possible Motives can be found in “Three Steps to Success in Parenting and in Life” By Derold “De” Bates .Ed.S. See; Yelling & telling p 4-6 , 42-43. Find the book on line at, and click on Amazon; Barnes and Noble or Outskirts press. E-mail questions or comments

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