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.