Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood. (Nina Simone, 1964)
Finding yourself being accused of manipulating when you’re the one fully disclosing what you are doing and why you’re doing it, comes as a big shock and makes you feel that you’re being treated very unfairly.
But saying something in a laughing manner… may be problematic when your counterpart has either no or another sense of humour.
Innocent & unaware, you might have struck a sensitive chord.
When you suddenly find yourself confronted with someone whose tense, aggressive body language unnerves you more than you would ever have expected it to do, it’s high time to ‘regroup strategically’.
I’m not talking about the coward’s way out here, though I must admit my opponent was much more muscular than I am.
No. This is all about taking those three deep breaths, the slowly counting to three, five or even ten just to ensure that your lizard brain doesn’t get the better of you.
Allow me to explain this: For us men, I’m sure it has to do with that magic potion called ‘testosterone’. It triggers our ‘fight or flight’ routines very quickly and more often than not, we find ourselves drawn to the first. To me, it’s clear that the relative lack of testosterone sets women apart, making them belong to an entirely different, and superior, league when it comes to cooperating peacefully.
But let’s backtrack to the confrontation I was in.
At first, I told him he was overreacting. Obviously, this only infuriated him more.
I was in the wrong of course. What I meant and should have said was: ‘I do not understand why you are reacting so strongly now.’
While suddenly realising this, I consciously tried not to become angry myself.
I tried to understand what the problem was, how my opponent had experienced our brief, joking encounter and how he had not in the least experienced anything even remotely funny about it.
I asked a lot of questions, at times rephrasing his answers to make sure I had understood correctly.
I realised that what for me was only a bagatelle was indeed for him a matter of the greatest importance – closely tied to and intertwined with professional pride, self-esteem, coping with a not properly addressed/processed frustration from the past, personal issues, character and so on. This may sound a bit over the top, yet this is exactly what happens when you deal with human counterparts: the past, present & future somehow all get dragged in.
I did not back away from expressing some of my critical, personal views, concerns & feelings. Yet somehow I found myself capable of paying attention to how I was formulating these, having sufficient consideration for my collocutor.
At first, he was not really willing to talk, not prepared to listen. Short replies, not answering my questions but vehemently sticking to his own ‘big right’, clearly demonstrated this.
How often don’t we find ourselves hearing but not listening?
And for me as well, it was a gradual opening up process that was unfolding: I became aware of the impression I had made, unintentional but real enough in the eye of the beholder. I paid attention to what I was saying out of consideration for the other person.
Fifteen minutes later, two different – no, ‘altered’ is more correct – men left the small meeting room.
However uncomfortable & even distressing at first, part of me is still grateful that I had this confrontation.
Because, in the end, I learnt a lot from this.