Jess Macdonald has discovered the art of war. Outreasonableness.
I’m not a very patient person. Short-tempered, prone to irritability, and fairly tetchy as a rule. Most people who know me would agree, and if they don’t, then I’m going to lose my temper with them. I have been known to argue with myself for days at a time. I am not always rational or logical.
What I can be, though, is reasonable. In fact, a tactic I often deploy when dealing with someone whose behaviour or attitude is somewhat tricky is the art of outreasonabling them. Being ridiculously helpful and sympathetic, right up to the point that the person has to decide whether to meet you halfway or steam on down the road headed to Meltdownsville.
These people are in a bad mood and having a bad day, so their logic seems to be, why shouldn’t they take it out on you? In this case, you are beyond reasonable. You ‘nice’ them.
Smile encouragingly, tentatively ask for something, “If it’s not too much trouble?” a quaver of hope in your voice. Not passive-aggressive, but in the sweetest, friendliest, most appreciative, “Gosh, you’re working hard today!” understanding and encouraging fashion. OK, so maybe it is a bit patronising, but it means you are fighting their rudeness with your reasonableness.
I reckon that eight times out of 10, the grumpy bugger will realise that they are behaving badly and thaw enough to perhaps offer you the smallest of smiles, which is obviously a massive personal triumph for you, without even a shot being fired.
It’s a tiny example of a good deed in a wicked world. If we extrapolate that attitude out into a more global example, let’s have a look at how Hillary Clinton handled That Trump Manshape.
Did she respond in kind to his onslaught of vicious, personal muck flinging and name calling? No, she stuck tenaciously to campaign issues, politics, she stayed focused and on message (publicly, at least. I’m not so naive to think she didn’t have a crack team of researchers beavering away at all hours, digging, briefing, and doing all the dark underbelly seamy stuff in order to see him discredited in the press).
The point is that Clinton herself was never seen to descend to his level, that she kept herself above it. Obviously, it’s a moot point now that That Trump Manshape has won, but if you’re going to lose, surely it’s better to do so with your dignity intact, having maintained a serene demeanour throughout? Certainly a far more edifying spectacle than that of a bad winner who’s still whining about bias and prejudice against Oompa Loompa-faced middle-aged white male billionaires, anyway.
“It’s always enjoyable to see someone who’s annoyed you throw a big shouty tantrum while you sit back calmly and bathe in the warm glow of being the bigger, better person.”
That’s an extreme case, and none of us are ever likely to be in a position to run as a presidential candidate, I know (apart from you, you should totally go for it, you’d be brilliant. Yes, you). But perhaps it’s a type of behaviour we should aspire to emulate when we have to deal with pigheaded, selfish, entitled wankers who don’t treat us with the respect we should be taking as our right, rather than it being an optional extra.
A patient smile, a head tilt, and then, what usually kills them is kindness. Because it’s hard to justify behaving like an absolute arse when the recipient of the arseyness refuses to rise to the bait. Without having to be aggressive, you can turn the spotlight back on them, and ask them to justify why they think it’s OK to behave that way, either directly or simply in how you choose to respond.
People react to it in different ways. Someone who’s just having a bad day will usually back down and you may even get a very small apology, mumbled out quickly and apparently in conversation with your shoes. A real arse will become even more infuriated by your refusal to engage and before you know it they’re throwing insults around and getting even more wound up by your ultrareasonable stance.
And let’s be honest, it’s always enjoyable to see someone who’s annoyed you throw a big shouty tantrum while you sit back calmly and bathe in the warm glow of being the bigger, better person (which is admittedly petty, but let’s take our victories where we can find them).
Grace under fire might not always win our battles, but it means we can hold our heads high throughout.
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Jess Macdonald is a quite sweary blogger and mother of two with Scottish hair. http://putupwithrain.blogspot.co.uk