Monday, April 14, 2014

War. Huunh. What Is It Good For?

Perhaps the most useful advice I have ever offered is going to be in this post.  Brace yourselves, boys and girls, this is a goody.

You don't need to fight.  Be patient.  Think about your words.  Let go of your anger.  With few exceptions (which I will share in just a moment), I am a stellar example of peace and calm, so you can trust my experience with this.

First, the exceptions to my lover-not-a-fighter-ness.

  • The Wet Willie-  You know it.  Someone disgusting, immature, and usually male licks his finger and sticks it in your ear when your back is turned.  Spit= Gross.  Surprises in your ear= Gross.  The word 'earworm' makes me shudder.  For real, I just shuddered when I typed it.  The phrase, "I just want to put a bug in your ear about this" makes me want to barf.  I worked with a guy years ago who thought it was hilarious to give me wet willies at every opportunity.  After the first couple of times, I realized he thought I was just regular grossed out by it, so I took him aside and very calmly informed him that if he ever did it again, I would punch him in the face.  About a week later, at our company Christmas party, he licked his filthy finger with his putrescent tongue and shoved it in my ear.  I turned around and punched him in the face.  My only regret is that I didn't hit him harder.  He didn't speak to me much after that, but he also stopped the wet willieing.  Violence was the answer.
I'm not ruling out the possibility that "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" made me disturbingly phobic about things in my ears. 
  • The Drunk Friend-  Sometimes, it is possible to reason patiently with a wasted friend trying to drive home.  Sometimes, it isn't, and you have to take the car keys.  Sometimes, when you take the car keys, it makes the drunk friend angry.  When the drunk friend is angry, she might try to knock you down and wrestle the keys out of your hand.  On such occasions, it is then acceptable to fight back.  In my experience, the alcohol will numb the minor physical pain inflicted by (me) the sober friend, and by the next morning, only the hungover friend's pride will hurt.
  • The Deserved-It-  I was out with a guy I was dating.  He said something that I'm not going to share here, and I knocked him out of his chair and onto his back.  Trust me, he deserved it.  I was much younger then, and hadn't quite mastered the skills I'm about to describe, but even now, when I think about his words and my reaction, I know that I did the right thing.  
  • The Big Liar-  The year was 2004.  I was about to graduate from the University of Central Florida with my B.A. in Psychology.  It should go without saying that I had worked hard, for years, to obtain my degree.  A couple of other people at the restaurant where I worked were also graduating from college, and our manager was kind enough to buy us cards and congratulatory gifts.  The Big Liar asked where her gift was.  She claimed she was also graduating from UCF, earning a Civil Engineering degree.  My goodness.  I could write an entire post, just on this one story.  Short version is that she was lying, and it made me furious.  I didn't punch her or knock her down, physically, but I used my words to make sure everyone knew she was a big effing liar, and to make her sorry for her idiocy.  It's possible that I gave her nightmares.  I do kind-of regret a few of the mean things I said to her.  I'm sure her pathology ran deep and she had little control over her stupid, ridiculous lies, and I could have handled the situation better.
  • The Justifiably Annoyed- There are certainly times that I'm irritated by other drivers' actions, but I'm not a road rager, yeller, or even a horn honker.  Cupcake made me laugh a couple of times recently when we were in the car, and made me glad that I am careful with my words, even when I get cut off in traffic.  Each time I brake suddenly or sharply, she gets this (familiar) annoyed tone and says, "Really?  Really?  Uggghhh."  Could be so much worse!

While we're on that subject, here's another super cute thing our little Cupcake did recently to make me laugh:  As I was cleaning up the dinner dishes, she was playing in her little kitchen, banging around her mini pots and pans, making tea, etc.  She came up and handed me this
with the words, "Here guys.  Dinner time."

Anyway... Now that I've confessed, let's move on.  I feel that I am really quite good at conflict resolution, and many people I know are not, so it seems important that I give a little how-to.  When someone does or says something that makes you angry, you should follow these steps in order to calmly and peacefully manage the situation.
  • Step 1- Stop.  Emphasis on stop.  Seriously.  STOP.  Don't say anything, don't do anything.  Except breathe, of course.  Actually, breathe deeply.
  • Step 2- Think.  Think about what the other person is thinking.  No, don't say aloud, "What are you thinking?!?!?"  Think about whether or not the other person is actually an idiot.  I'm so serious about that.  If the answer is yes, your next step is different than if the answer is no.  
  • Step 3 (Yes, idiot)- Be the bigger person.  You don't need to prove how smart you are, or how angry you are, or how stupid the other person is.  Solve the problem if you can, if not, move on with your life.
  • Step 3 (No, not an idiot)-  Continue thinking.  Think about something the other person did that showed how smart, sensitive, cool, nice, non-idiotic he/she is.  Think about why that person is in your life.  Think about how you will wish you had handled the situation when you look back on it.  Think about your own flaws, as a reminder that nobody is perfect.  Force yourself to think about something else, for a while, and then think fresh, new thoughts.  Think about what you would want the other person to say to you, if your roles were reversed and you were the upset-er instead of the upset-ee.  This step may take a while.  Sometimes, it takes hours.  Also helpful during this step is to do some exercise.  Running helps me to think, but so does practicing yoga.  
  • Step 4- Talk to the person who made you angry.  Sometimes, it will be tempting after all those calming thoughts to skip straight to step 5, but in the long run, you'll be happy you addressed the issue.  Even if you're no longer seeing red, it will be beneficial for you to get all your thoughts out in the open, and it will help the other person to realize, recognize, or defend their words or actions that upset you.
  • Step 5- Let it go.  Come on, did you really think that wasn't going to be one of the steps?  I have never found pleasure, happiness, joy, or peace in stewing over a wrong that's been done.  Once you've explored the problem thoughtfully, and addressed it with the offender, drop it.  Think about it this way:  After I punched the wet willier, and he stopped delivering wet willies, would there have been any benefit if I had punched his face every time I saw him?  No.  Probably by the second time, and definitely by the third time I punched him, he would have hit me back.  I had gotten my point across to him, solved the problem, and if I hadn't then let it go, I likely would have gotten fist willied in my ear.
A couple of years ago, Charming and I were having trouble dealing with Rip Claw's tantrums.  He was 4 years old, and he would go off like a complete and utter maniac sometimes, usually when Charming wasn't around.  Something small would upset him, and he would react badly.  I would dole out a punishment, or yell at him for his bad behavior, and then it would spiral downward until he was screaming and flailing and hitting.  Not good.  

A day or so after one particularly bad episode, I sat him down and talked to him about why he thought he would get so out of control when he was upset.  His words struck me like an Ice Queen's magical icicle to the heart (sorry, just watched "Frozen").  
"I'm not mad at first, but then when you get mad at me, I have to get mad back at you.  It's like you want me to be more mad than you.  So I try to show you that I'm the maddest one."
Oof.  I think what he was trying to articulate, in his late toddler-hood way, was the truth that anger breeds anger.  Yelling leads to more yelling, not less.  Since that conversation, I've made a conscious effort to be calm, even when he or his sister is making me feel absolutely crazy.  It has definitely worked.  He hasn't had a maniac tantrum in over two years.  

So, there you go.  You're welcome.  Feel free to share with the United Nations and/or any warmongers you happen to know.

Ever been in a fight?  Regret it?

1 comment:

  1. You are wise, and I am glad. Step 3 is new for me and makes a lot of sense. Thanks!