In a past life I owned a singles dance club which had a strict dress code, which for men was a collar and tie.
Every week, one particular ‘gentleman’ would arrive minus his tie. I would politely remind him of the dress policy and the conversation would always proceed something like this.
“You might need this ridiculously, outdated dress policy for the drop kicks you get in here, but I know how to dress. This shirt cost over $300. I am probably the best dressed man here,”………and so on and so on.
This man did not just have a chip on his shoulder, he was carrying a brick.
But eventually he would pull out his expensive tie from his expensive pocket and angrily put it on, shove his money down on the table and storm off, while I would remain cool, calm and happy to collect his money.
After about the 4th or 5th such performance my assistant said, “What is wrong with you? Why do you let that son of a b… get away with speaking to you like that? You should have said, “Who do you think you are you are coming in here and trying to dictate to me. I don’t care how expensive your stinking shirt is. Put your tie on or get out.’’ Joanne always had such a way with words. “Then I would have asked one of those big guys over there to throw him out anyway.”
Luckily I was the boss and not her.
I could easily have reacted to Mr Grumpy like that. I could have justified my anger by saying that I didn’t deserve such treatment, or that he should not have acted like a jerk. I could have let him upset me, refused to deal with him, and left him to my charming assistant Joanne for a taste of his own medicine. But I chose not to.
Being an ex hot head myself, I eventually learned that it was much more effective to respond to life rather than react to it. Why would I let a rude, unhappy man like Mr Grumpy determine how I acted? His bully tactics reveal more about him than me, so I choose not to take his little outbursts personally.
How often do we let others decide how we feel and act? How often have you said, “He makes me so mad?” Or “She made me do it.” How many times have you let someone make you feel less than you are because they intimidated you by something they said?
Reacting angrily only reduces us to the same level as the perpetrator. I call it jumping into the pit.
When we react to aggressiveness we jump into the pit with them and we both scramble around in the mud. We have then reduced our selves to a very low level of a consciousness. Both parties lose.
Responding keeps you centered in your power where you retain the ability to affect change. Ghandi didn’t jump into the pit with the British. The Dalai Lama refuses to jump into the pit with the Chinese. I refuse to jump into the pit with anyone except Brad Pitt.
When we react to harsh words by becoming hurt we are judging ourselves. Some part of us is afraid the other might actually be right. Even if you don’t argue back, you are still reacting emotionally and you still lose because you allow yourself to become a victim of someone else’s rage. You have jumped into the pit with them.
The truth is no one makes you do or feel anything. When we react to an abrasive tone of voice with fear we allow someone else to intimidate or control us. Ever felt like you had to walk on eggshells around a gruff person? So, why would you want to jump into the pit with them?
One night I observed Mr Grumpy standing alone, watching the others dance. I was feeling brave (it must have been the Chardonnay), so I decided to strike up a conversation although I had no idea of how he would respond to me.
“Hello,’ I said. “How are you tonight?”
He looked at me incredulously. For once he was lost for words.
Almost apologetically, he said, “I don’t know why you’d bother to talk to me. I don’t deserve it.’’
“Really?” I pretended.
“I have been so incredibly rude to you. I’m so sorry.”
I let him continue. Mr Grumpy owned a textile factory. That accounted for the $300 shirts. Competing with China was difficult. Dealing with employees was excruciating. Well it would be with his bedside manner. It seems Mr Grumpy was just as human as the rest of us although he had been hiding it very well.
After that conversation, Mr Grumpy became Mr Pleasant. We never had to have another tie conversation. He told me later that my refusal to speak to him the way he had spoken to me made him think, and it had a lasting impact on him. He became a happy little vegemite (That’s Australian slang for a person of good humour) and I bet his employees breathed easier as well whenever they saw him coming.
I was able to influence him because I refused to let him intimidate me and I refused to let him upset me. I certainly refused to jump into any pit with him. I choose to respond to life rather than react.
Responders have realized that although it might be human to react before engaging their brains, jumping into the pit never gets them the result they want and besides, there are people there you probably do not like.
If you would like to learn to respond instead of reacting, contact me here to book a session.
Photo courtesy of