Sunday, 24 June 2012

Calm over ego

Image by Anna Inghardt

I had an interesting conversation with my stylist Tanya yesterday. I enjoy our discussions. We often discuss books, what our families are up to, culture (she is a proud Greek who oozes culture), celebrities we think are hot (Ruby Rose comes up a lot, by me) and yesterday, self-development and behaviour. We were discussing how we handle confrontation and conflict, and I shared with her my newly adapted approach to handling aggressive people.

When someone approaches me with anger and clearly they are looking for a reaction, I have adopted this glazed over look. I just stare at them, making serious eye contact but neither smiling nor frowning. Just blank and expressionless. I imagine to the aggressor it’s not really obvious if I am even present or not. Lights are on but blondie has well and truly left the building. I wait until the rant is over, then I sit for about 10 seconds, to which I then respond, “What would you like me to do?” The reaction I have received to this approach so far has been surprise, stutters of “um, er, well…” and sheer confusion. You see in my opinion, as the owner of an aggressive side in the past, someone bursting into your space with rage and a mouthful of anger is simply looking for a punching bag, someone to cop their irate babble. And I am sorry to say that I am not that person. Actually, I am not even that sorry.

On my own little journey of self-development over the years I have learnt something very valuable. No-one can make me feel a certain way. How I react to someone’s words, opinions or actions is totally within my control. No person can make me feel anything. So when someone approaches me with aggression looking for someone to blame their anger on, I make it clear with nothing more than a blank expression on my face that they got it wrong. I am not the reason, be it direct or otherwise, for them feeling angry. They choose to be angry. And if it is over the way I acted, still their choice to be angry. I can apologise for my behaviour if I did wrong, but I will never, ever accept I made someone feel a certain way. You know I can’t make you feel angry, right? Right.

In my 20s I was very fiery natured. I had a hot temper and I could fly off the handle within seconds over the smallest of incident. Over the past few years however I have found myself mellowing, a lot. Recently a very laidback friend told me I am very ‘laidback’. I know I am, but it still surprises me coming from someone who is mellow themselves, as I always remember how feisty I used to be. My  mellowness even surprises me sometimes. 

Tanya asked me if I have always handled confrontation so calmly, and I told her I haven’t. I know from my own experiences that handling it in a calm manner feels best. When you allow yourself to be overcome by emotion as a result of someone else’s aggressiveness you gain nothing. Ego wants us to respond, ego wants us to argue, ego wants us to ‘win’. But you know what, I am more than happy to let the aggressor ‘win’ if it means not responding or engaging. I’ll take inner calm over victory for the ego any day.

10 comments:

  1. wise words, I am really working on not letting aggressive people get to me too, having a lot of practise in that area!
    It is more so making sure that I dont re think of their agression afterwards too!

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    1. Oh that's mostly my issue too Alicia, I can happily not enter into it then and there but then later I think of 400 things I could have said as a retort! Not taking it on and not letting it get into my head later are the two things I work on.

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  2. Sounds like a great approach to facing aggressive people! Might have to try this at work one day. :) x

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    1. Works very well in an environment where you need to remain professional Kaisla. Good luck! xo

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  3. Such poise and grace. I love it.
    :-) xx

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    1. Thanks Shar, trying to remain poised. :) xo

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  4. I'm still fiery. I still fly off the handle. I still rant & rave. I usually hate myself afterwards & guilt engulfs me because it's usually my family that feel the brunt of my frustration.It's usually happens because I haven't said how I felt first up & I let it dwell until I boil over like a crazy woman. Rarely does it get me anywhere or make me feel better.
    One day I hope to be calm & serene. One day very soon.

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    1. Reannon I used to keep my thoughts in out of fear of offending others, but over time I have learnt to speak my mind. I don't always please everyone by doing so, and it isn't always easy, but I am getting there. By being upfront with my opinions in situations I find I fly off the handle less. As you say, it isn't getting bottled up and then through frustration exploding when I have had enough. I get you, I truly do. I too am naturally that way inclined.

      Keeping calm and not flying off the handle seriously feels sooooo much better, because as you know you do walk away still feeling crappy having erupted. You can be calm, you already know you can. I personally know controlling anger and frustration is very difficult, but being a former fiery spirit I know it is very possible.

      Good luck Reannon. xo

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  5. "what would you like me to do?" those words have been my saving grace working in hospitality. All to often you cop the full brunt of someone's bad day or anger, for what ever reason, looking to make someone feel more shit than they do. It made me so sick for a long time until I realized just that...it's their anger, not mine and Regardless of whether I did something to provoke their anger or not, they indeed chose to be angry. It has help my anger too, I used to be so fiery but now...not so much =)

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    1. That's awesome Rachael. And you're spot on, it isn't your responsibility to appease someone just because they choose to be angry. Not feeling anger actually gives you more power, well I think so anyway. :)

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