When my nephew was 3 he loved being mad at his mother in public. He would lie down on his tummy in the middle of a corridor with his hand underneath in the “go away world, you’ve hurt my feelings” attitude. It could last for quite a while and no amount of talking would do any good. You could only buy him off with sweets or cartoons :).
Feeling hurt is a characteristic reaction of children to any kind of unpleasant events, restrictions or reasonable denial. At 2 or at 5 such behavior is quite understandable. The little ones are simply afraid to attack those they depend on, those who are bigger and stronger.
Touchiness is sometimes provoked by the parents’ behavior. Words play an important part here. Just remember how often you’ve heard that crying and pouting was not nice, that arguing with adults was naughty and altogether, “grow up first and talk back later.”
So why do we continue to be offended when we grow up? Why do we shut down and cannot fight back the offenders? True, the hurt feelings of adult life are on a different scale. They no longer deal with the simple refusal to buy chips or an ice cream. So, the extent of encroachment on your rights has grown, but your reaction is still childish: you just go back to your room and quietly cry over your fate… Just as you were taught, to swallow the insult and not talk back!
Meanwhile, we are no longer children and our offenders could care less about our quiet wailing. In most cases, those who offend us know that they are not doing the right thing, but it doesn’t stop them because people usually do what is easier or better for them. This is not one of your parents who, getting tired of contemplating your demonstrative suffering, will give in.
So what can you do? How can you deal with an offender in an adult way?
A good girl or an adult woman
Anger, fear and rage are normal reactions to aggression directed at you. The natural biological reaction is either to run, to freeze or to have the aggressor’s guts for garters. For an adult person, however, ignoring means remaining indifferent, not “saving face” in public. Unfortunately, for many people their childhood scenario comes on and negative emotions are locked inside instead of transforming into responsive actions.
After all, you are no longer a “little good girl”, right? You are an adult and successful woman. You may not be strong enough physically, but you can still speak!
What do adult women do if they feel that they have been offended? They either distance themselves from the offender, dealing with them as little as possible or retaliate. That is the norm for an adult, independent woman who takes responsibility for everything that happens in her life. She does not look for cowardly excuses. “What if I hurt his feelings and he leaves?” in the case of a partner and is not scared, “What if he fires me then?” every time a boss bullies her.
That is because she is aware that no one has a moral right to attack her or to humiliate her. She behaves in such a way that those who know her do not dare offend her!
Patience: a virtue or a paradise for bullies?
We have been given the instinct of self-preservation for a reason. It gives rise to aggression and fear in response to an attack. It is normal to feel these emotions, even though they are often scornfully called negative. You need to be aware of them and transform them into appropriate actions.
It does not matter whether your anger becomes words or actions. What is important is that you make the decision on how to react yourself. That you realize that you are under attack. That you evaluate the harm. That you come up with a decision and go through with it. Even if you decide to do nothing and simply ignore the offender. At all events, it should be your informed choice! And that means that you will have no regrets, you will not be humiliated or feel deprived. It also means that someone’s hurtful words will not keep spinning in your head like a broken record.
So, you only have three options:
- Ignore the offender entirely;
- Stay away if the conflict is too tough for you;
Do it only after you have analyzed the situation. Undoubtedly, in the heat of the moment you can only think one thing, “This is bad. I’ve been attacked. I have to defend myself.” You want to react immediately.
In most cases, the most ergonomic way is to tell them what you think and dismiss the situation from your mind. Yet, sometimes, it is better not to rush and later on do to the offender what they really deserve. So that it is best for you, not for them.
Make sure your threats are threatening
I am sure you have politely asked the offender a thousand times not to do it anymore. You must have given reasons and put pressure on their feelings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help very often. Of course, you can get meditative and repeat the mantra “Don’t do it” 158 times :). You can arm yourself with Christian forgiveness and Buddhist wisdom but it is the real world around you and no one respects the underdog.
Sometimes, at the end of your tether, you’re ready to cry out, “Don’t do that anymore or we’ll have to break up!” However, you have to follow up with real action. If you are not ready to go through with your threat, your words will have no effect on the offender. Threatening to leave someone and actually leaving are two very different things and you have to be very clearly aware of that.
If threats and requests fall on the man’s deaf ears, say “Good bye, my dear!” and proudly walk away into the sunset. Because it will not get any better as long as you put up with it. He can try to bring you back on your terms.
What have you got to lose? Otherwise, you are doomed to put up with rudeness, humiliation and offense for the rest of your life.
Absence of intent is no excuse!
Offenders very often excuse their behavior with the fact that they meant no harm. That they had no idea that their behavior might hurt you. Remember, people lie. Sometimes, they do it in full awareness of the fact, because they are afraid or are looking for a benefit. They often even lie to themselves. In either case you should not pander to a chronic jerk or bully!
There is no difference whatsoever whether the offence was intended or by accident: you have your rights, your personal boundaries, there are certain social norms, after all. If they are violated, you have been attacked! You have incurred damages and they should be compensated.
On the whole, you could say it like this,
“I feel angry / hurt after what you said. My self-respect has suffered. Next time in a situation like this I will leave and not have anything to do with you at all.”
Naturally, most professionally rude people will not believe you and will either laugh in your face or turn a deaf ear. Nonetheless, you will have stated your position and warned of the consequences. If a person continues to ignore your feelings, stop dealing with them.
Unfortunately, you cannot fend off all the jerks you don’t know. However you can master the working behavior model that will discourage people from wanting to cross your boundaries.
Remember: people treat us as we ALLOW them. Therefore, simply don’t allow them to hurt your feelings!
Leave the rude ones, only deal with polite, ethical people.