Keeping Your Cool

Throughout my youth, and well into my late 20s, the lengths to which I used to go to avoid confrontation of any kind made Gandhi look like Hitler. I was pertified of either getting beaten up, or having people not like me.

Fast forward several years down the line, I actually look forward to opportunities for confrontation, to test myself. I’m sure of my own mind and opinions, strong, and couldn’t give a turd what anyone except my closest friends and family think of me. If I believe I am in the right, I simply refuse to back down until I have made my point clear.

However, a holdover of my former pacifist days means I am generally not that used to dealing with actual confrontational situations when they arise. I get completely overwhelmed by adrenaline, or an emotional rush, and I lose the ability to think clearly, or speak clearly and dominantly. The inner part of my mind is calm and collected, but my physiology betrays me.

The “HR Office Admin Nazi Bitch” stormed over to my desk earlier, with some arse-licking pathetic beta toadie in tow. Apparently, I had broken the office mail policy by having too many personal packages delivered (which is obviously so important no-one had thought to inform me of it in my 9 prior months of working here). Additionally, the porter who delivers the mail had overheard me making a comment about how I had “turned him into my personal postman”, which he took great offense to, despite it clearly being a joke about how I had unknowingly been taking the piss (I like the dude – I feel no need to rip on him). But yes – I know. The triviliality of this shit is mind boggling isn’t it. This is why I cannot stand corporate environments, and the sooner I get out of here the better.

Anyway, I digress. She stormed over, and caught me completely off guard with a furious barrage of accusations about how I had deliberately and knowingly abused the office mail policy, cutting off my protestations before I could even from a sentence. It took me a full minute to regain my composure sufficiently, and stifle the adrenaline rush, before I actually managed to get my case across, and make her back the fuck down. If I’d been more used to handling this kind of thing, I’d have just been able to calmly shut her up within 10 seconds.

I’m certain this is simply because I’m still relatively unused to actually being in a heated situations, having avoided them most of my life. As I experience more and more of them, they will become almost commonplace, and I will stop reacting in any kind of adverse fashion. Remember, if you can keep your cool whilst your opponent loses their, you have already won.

Anecdotally, I got smashed in the  head by some cowardly cunt in Australia last year. I’d bumped into his Ute whilst crossing the road (I was pissed), and when he said something to me, I’d just flipped him the finger and carried on walking. Apparently (I don’t remember), he got out of his car, ran 50 metres up the pavement after me, and launched a flying elblow into the side of my head, before running back off and driving away. I got back up almost immediately, with no more lasting harm than a sore jaw for a few days, but in all actuality this incident helped me tremendously with conflict – I’d never even been punched in the face in my life up until that point, and I suddenly realised that if that was as bad as it got from someone taking a running, flying elbow, unawares, to the side of my head, then it wasn’t actually anything that much to worry about.

In short – get punched in the face – it’s liberating.

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3 thoughts on “Keeping Your Cool

  1. Ah, the lovely officious HR snatches with nothing better to do than get the jollies through obscure office policies (real or imagined)… what a small life they have.

  2. I wouldn’t be so hard on myself if I were you. It’s normal to be taken aback by sudden surprise attacks of overblown anger. You could even make the case that one way to define civilization is the ability to treat each other rationally and calmly even when we are mad. So it is not a sign of your own weakness if some loser loses their shit.

    I mean yeah, okay, it does give you more power if you can calmly, aloofly, think and act in the face of someone else’s negative emotions, but power isn’t everything, and the fact that you react emotionally, while disconcerting, and uncomfortable, is a sign of your humanity, a sign that you care about the people around you.

    There is nothing wrong with not liking confrontation, and some people will always be this way, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

    I mean I have experienced this sort of thing at work and in my personal life a million times, and have been working as well not to be tongue tied, not to feel the conflict so deeply, and even though you can get better at it, for some, it will never go away, and this isn’t really such a bad thing. Remember, the people who are best at keeping cool and thinking on their feet are the sociopaths anyway, and who wants to be like them.

    All that being said though, I do have a mental tip you might be able to use. I used to work in a restaurant that catered to extremely rich people, and it seemed like they got a sort of joy out of torturing the staff. At the end of the day, almost every day, each one of us would have a story about a customer that was so mean, so unreasonable, so whatever, that it could fuck up our whole day. It was a miserable place to work.

    Then I came up with the idea that the reason it was so unpleasant was that we were all going through our day with the notion that we would respect others and they would respect us. To suddenly get blasted with disrespect would therefore be shocking and jarring. So what I did was put a little sign next to my bed in the morning that said:

    At least one bad thing is going to happen today.

    And the most amazing thing happened. Instead of being insulted or upset about how I got treated at work, when someone would do something messed up, I would say to myself, oh, there’s the one bad thing. And I noticed that I stopped getting so stressed anymore. I watched my co workers blowing up, crying, all that every day, but I never did anymore. I was so excited about my discovery, and tried to share it with them, but they just criticized me for it, saying I had a negative attitude.

    It works though. Maybe you can use it.

    • Great comment dude, thanks for the input.

      “Don’t be so hard on yourself” – if I had a pound for every time I’d heard that… I’ve always held myself to the most exacting standards. It probably comes from over compensating for a lack of self-esteem in my youth. I don’t expect others to measure up to my own ludicrously high standards generally – I’d probably react in the same manner as you did if someone else told me the same story in fact.

      I don’t like anything to have power over me, and I consider a small, petty individual being able to knock me off balance as such. If I can acclimatise myself, at least partially, to such situations, then it’s going to be something I’ll try to do, even if as you say, I’m perhaps not naturally cut out for it.

      I expect to be treated with a certain level of respect, and I don’t like that she was able to get under my skin, even if it was only momentarily. But then maybe I’m aspiring to be a sociopath as you point out!

      My work environment is pretty chill normally. If I was on the receiving end of treatment like that on any kind of semi-regular basis, I’d be out the door sharpish.

      Moving forwards, I’ll keep trying to improve my response to these things, but also to cut myself a bit of slack in the process!

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