Imagine you have tried your whole life to always stand up for yourself. Not to let people stamp you down and slam you. You develop, you grow, you improve – and then you come to a place where everyone is just too polite or even too anxious about what other people might think of them to speak things out loud.
Don’t care what people think about you, they say. Don’t let them get into your head. But what if it is suddenly your own friends, who are trying to educate you and tell you that this way, the direct way, is not the right way?
Sure, there are diplomatic ways and more rugged ways. One approach is to just give less of a fuck in general – that automatically leads to less confrontation and you might have an easy-going life. The essence is, I claim, to find a balance – no one wants to end up like a dull hermit, not concerned about anything that is going on in this world. Also, no one wants to be so busy caring about everyone and everything that it practically eats them up from inside (while outsiders might hate/envy/laugh at them, because judging is in our nature). So what to do if you have a, let’s call it healthy, sense of caring? How do you tell people when they’re wrong, or meet their obvious aggressiveness?
Caring about the issue, but not too much about what they think of you is the key here. Yes, you can tell people when they treat you wrong. Don’t let anyone else tell you anything else, even if it is your friends trying to show you the “easy” way through life.
This goes for any situation in life and beyond any kinds of hierarchies – unless there is an obvious limit to maintain. A friend of mine, for instance, is becoming a teacher, and even though most of her colleagues seem to have one thing in common – namely being a massive jerk –, she cannot really do anything about it, as she knows they will be the ones giving her final evaluation in a couple of months. In a situation like this, the only way out (or rather forward) is to put up a brave front and pretend you’re really nice and kind. You can do the voodoo stuff at home, or create a hate-list for them. But you cannot be too direct and tell them how wrong they are. Because people are, unfortunately, not able to differentiate between profession and personal grudge. And also, they are very, very vain.
If you have ever worked in a service job, you might have had some similar experiences. I personally do not understand how anyone in this world could possibly think lower of someone just because they are serving them a cup of coffee. In fact, everyone should be grateful and happy about that (who wouldn’t be about a cup of coffee??!), but instead, those poor souls waiting on tables are the ones getting it all. The food doesn’t taste good, the serving time takes too long – no one thinks of the bigger picture: the person delivering is the one who HAS to be responsible for all the wrongs of a guest’s day. Caring too much as the receiver of such BS inevitably ends very bad. Staying too friendly, on the other hand, teaches bullies that being an asshole pays off. Luckily, if a boss stands 100% behind their staff, a guest being a jerk gets exactly the treatment he asks for.
A more delicate issue, however, are volunteer organizations. Towards outsiders, you’re like a for-profit organization, and you have to have certain business standards. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t lose anything by being less polite. So assuming there’s no thread of any possible (customer)losses – do you have to butter up potential jerks for a while before you can tell them what you really think? Shouldn’t in fact people treat each other with respect, clients their service providers and vice versa? This should by the way be a generally applicable conclusion, but competition unfortunately distorts this utopia.
I’d say yes. I’d also say you don’t need to put up with anything, especially someone thinking they can treat you disrespectfully. Unfortunately (but this is only my personal experience), my sarcastic answer to stupidity and disrespect usually doesn’t really decrease the flame. And here we have yet another thing to consider: How high can you afford the fire burning up before the smoke detector ruins your wallpapers?
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