6 Steps, Hamsters, and Salesmen, OH MY!
DEATH OF A HAMSTER’S EGO… & THE TRIUMPH OF A SILENT SALESMAN
Frustrating Interactions with Difficult and Impossible People Can Actually be EMPOWERING and SATISFYING?
What an (Oxy)moronic statement. Agreed, but hear me out. Sometimes those difficult interactions can be the most satisfying. Believe it or not, those interactions can be the thing that make you feel more in control of yourself, the situation, and even help you feel empowered to take more control over other parts of your life. Wait… Wait… What the?!? What?!? I know… Y’all better stop reading now. It’s clear I have no clue what I’m talking about, right? Okay, eye rolls and jokes aside… I’m being completely serious.
But, who am I, the queen of lots of words AND last words to be giving you advice on shutting up?!? Well, I think those who have had to come by lessons the hard way, while usually given the least credibly for not being genius enough to know in the first place, are usually the best at relaying to others the intricacies of the concept. Think about it, if something comes naturally or easily, it doesn’t require much thought as to how to obtain it. When effort and thought have to be expended on how to figure out how to obtain it, then it’s far easier to relay the process in a relatable way to someone else who didn’t come by it naturally. I have come by the advice I’m sharing about as honestly as one can. I’ve missed many an excellent opportunity to shut up and almost every time, all I parted with was frustration, no vindication, no moment of “getting through” to someone. I lost. I lost my peace momentarily, I lost control of my emotions for the moment, and I lost a little dignity engaging an undignified person in a foolish, dead-end debate. I finally tried a different approach. I’m not perfect at always taking this advice myself, but when I do, I feel, at least a little, more like I’ve got some of my sh…tuff together… (hey – don’t judge me, I won’t judge you…)
I’ll acknowledge, sometimes, some people and interactions are just impossible. Resolution is just IMPOSSIBLE with some people and in some situations – reference the “CRS-ers,” or “Pseudo-Narcissists” in “The Charlie Brown Intercom Teacher Syndrome and Convenient Rule Shifters.” When it comes to people who’d rather dig their heels into their own quicksand, plug their ears, and make and change the rules as they go and as they suit them, guess what?!?
NOT YOUR WHEEL AND NOT YOUR HAMSTER, HONEY… Walk away. You can whisper logic to them, attempt to reason while speaking in an even and loving tone, or shout it while calling them names.
None of those things will change their mind, behavior, or thought process. They will however leave you feeling exhausted and defeated. The only satisfaction to be found in those situations is distance and the understanding that you cannot control anyone or anything except for yourself and your actions.
If they want to be fools, let them. If they are stubborn fools who are trying to undermine you, you are only playing into their charade when you engage in a tug of war.
Okay, so, you’re defeated no matter what you do? How on earth, then, is a losing proposition empowering? Here’s the winning strategy in a nutshell: keen self-awareness and equally keen situational awareness.
Step 1: Situational Awareness – Recognize those people and situations. Once you pick up on patterns of behavior, it makes identifying the hamster charading as a logical human that much easier.
Step 2: Self-awareness – Recognize when your inclination to accept an invitation for a run on the hamster wheel is taking over. Self-awareness, awareness of our own inclinations and proclivities, is probably the most powerful tool in your box. Sadly, it doesn’t get used often enough.
I think as humans, we are scared to acknowledge our own social shortcomings or anything we perceive as imperfection about ourselves. The paradox here is that being honest with ourselves, just as cozy with our warts as we are our beauty marks, and embracing the warts with the same amount of comfort we embrace the beauty marks actually makes our egos less fragile. This coming from one once very touchy person who couldn’t bear the thought of anyone thinking of her as less than the perfectionism she strove for. A misguided little girl who thought being perfect and building the perfect façade was the way to win people’s affections and approval. As you can imagine, that didn’t work so well most of the time. The only ones that works on are the equally insecure cavorting around behind their own fragile egos and facades. Those are also the ones who walk away when you are struggling and the façade cracks, for the obvious reason that there is nothing real or enduring about any relationship, friendship or otherwise, that begins and has its roots in superficiality and Heaven forbid your cracks cast a reflection of even a minor crack on their facades.
I’m an adapter and observer though. I don’t know when or how the epiphany hit me, but at some point I realized that owning my flaws, being upfront about them when it helped facilitate better interactions, and making light of them before they could be used against me was far more empowering than pretending they didn’t exist. It’s like any other thing we hide that holds us back. We’re too scared of our own shadows to step out into the sunlight and grow when they (the flaws we see in ourselves, the “shadows”) haunt us. When we get comfortably acquainted with them, make friends with them, embrace them as a part and/or extension of ourselves, the light doesn’t seem so intimidating. We even begin to realize that introducing them, especially to others who’ve made friends with theirs can actually be a positive thing.
Knowing your shadows also helps empower you over their tendency to overshadow you in certain situations. In this case, being aware of where your triggers lie and being deliberate in shutting them down before they talk your ego into spending a dollar to make a dime helps you maintain control of yourself and how you choose to interact.
Step Three: Walk away. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t try to leave with a parting shot at their ridiculousness. Just walk away.
Oooohhh, yasss, honey chile, this step is the hardest! Ego, pride, our internal sense of right and wrong, and our desire for logical resolution make this little piece of the strategy seem like you’re conceding, like you’re giving a win by default, at least at first. BUT… it’s actually where you seal the win. This is the checkmate that that can make a no-win situation an empowering one. It’s also the wordiest step in this little PSA… (I did moniker myself the “Belle of the Babble.” I would be misleading you with that title if I didn’t use a lot of words to explain these things.) Hang with me. Don’t walk away just yet…
– Okay, oxymoron, how do you concede and win at the same time? –
Well, perspective is everything, right? When you can stop seeing it as concession, you’re halfway there. Here’s a little perspective: You will never get the satisfaction of validation from a hamster… No matter how many laps you make on their wheel, you’ll not convince them of your intelligence nor get them to buy into or stop attempting to undermine your logic. Plus, once you hop on their wheel you’re on their turf. Want to talk about conceding defeat… Hopping on the crazy train is the quickest means to that end.
Ever witness a negotiation? Like really pay attention to the interaction? Yes? Good! This analogy will be familiar then. No? Well, this little post is a two-fer then… I’ll also use this little post to let you in on a little secret that the best negotiators don’t want you to know. (You can thank me later. Like the next time you buy a car or something.) If you’ve witnessed a good negotiation or two, or been party to them, have you picked up on the fact that a lot of the time the party doing the most talking is the party that ends up getting the shorter end of the stick? It’s an interesting exchange to watch. It’s probably the best example of the fact that there is sometimes far more power in silence than any combination of intelligent, ten dollar words you can string together. It’s also one of the best examples of how ego can create a desperation that permeates a room. If you’ve ever worked in sales, you’ve surely heard that buyers can smell desperation a mile away. Once you start emitting the desperation smell, you’ve lost the upper-hand.
It’s no different with impossible people and the impossible for you interactions/situations they live for. They expect you to engage. They want you to engage. They want to use your desperation to prove yourself to bait you into engaging. Once your mouth opens to entertain or dignify foolishness with an answer, it also starts giving off “desperate to show you I’m right breath.” You’re in the hamster’s domain and you’re about to do a little cardio. Only this cardio, despite still being incredibly exhausting, to be sure, doesn’t burn calories, it actually makes you heavier! Hamster: 1, Your ego, peace, and self-satisfaction: -1.
Walk away next time. Silently. Without engaging. If a verbal barrage of baited questions and insults comes raining down, don’t engage it either. Don’t even turn your head, hold it a little higher, add a little more bounce to your step and just keep walking. You may not see the miffed look wash over their face, but I can assure you, it will, along with the frustration of not getting a reaction from you. If you got that verbal barrage as you walked away, you won. That’s the hamster’s manifestation of desperation. They want to bait you then wear you down, they thrive on feeling like they were clever enough to get you to take the bait and wear you down. That’s winning for them. But… You didn’t engage, they didn’t get the reaction they wanted. You don’t feel mentally or emotionally spent from a no-win interaction. You won. You took control of yourself, your emotions, your ego, and in doing so, you also took control of the situation. You got to determine the outcome. BAM!
If you need to speak the response that’s still rolling around in your head aloud, sit in your car and tell your windshield all the reasons they’re a fool. Your windshield won’t argue back. A far more satisfying exchange, I promise. Pat yourself on the back. Smile at your brilliant response. Call your husband, bestie, mom, whoever revels in your wins with you and vent/gloat about how you just left some crazy totally miffed.
Step 4: Don’t forget how rewarding it was to not give someone else power over your emotions or ego by not reacting to and engaging the fool.
(PS… Has anybody started singing Brian Mcknight yet? “…And four, repeat steps one through three…”)
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat… Next time you get invited for a spin on the hamster wheel, decline without explanation, let your parting and/or absence do the talking.
Step 6: Revel in another victory over provocation from fools.
This coming from the queen of lots of words, including the last word! If I can learn how to implement this little strategy, I promise you can.
Disclaimer: This strategy is strictly for use on impossible people and situations. I am by no means advocating you shut everyone down who says something you may not like! (Then you become a hamster… And who wants to be a hamster?) Reasonable people understand that while their views and opinions may differ on a particular subject, there is usually something to be learned or gained from engaging in mature, logical discourse. This happens when we choose to respond, rather than react. More on polite disagreements and choosing enlightening discourse over combat in a coming post! (I’ll link it in once it’s up.)
The Belle of the Babble
– Maybe not the “Belle of the Ball,” but ever a proud torch-bearer for the overly-verbose, word-loving say-a-little-in a-lot-of-words-ers! –