What I Hope To Remember The Next Time Someone Pisses Me Off

Not exactly the type of conflict I'm talking about but who doesn't love puppies?

Not exactly the type of conflict I’m talking about but who doesn’t love puppies?

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t gotten in a fight with anyone in awhile. I haven’t even been annoyed by anyone either, but that could be due to the fact that I avoid Facebook as much as possible. I figured since I don’t currently have a conflict with anyone, now would be a good time to write a post about how to deal with conflict so that when the sh*t hits the fan, I can refer back to it.

What I Hope To Remember The Next Time Someone Pisses Me Off

Face to face is almost always better than email or text. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you reply to a critical or mean-spirited email. Your heart pounds and your hands shake as your fingers fly across the keyboard, composing a retort that concisely details every reason why the sender got it wrong. But people rarely reply with, “Wow. You’re so right and I’m mistaken. Clearly, I’m a total amaze-hole.” Usually their reply details why you’re an amaze-hole and why you’re the one who’s mistaken.

Sometimes email can give you time to process information and intelligently express your emotions but more often than not, it works as a wall between people and encourages presenting ourselves in a way that serves to make us look good. Sending off a one-sided email where we get to say whatever we want and no one can interrupt us sounds so appealing but It’s easy to misread a person’s tone, intentions and sincerity, which can lead to more conflict. Digital courage allows us to say things in email that we’d never say in person.

Don’t hide behind a screen. If you’re nervous about confronting someone in person, that’s good. Confrontation takes personal responsibility and you should take it seriously. When you work it out in person, both sides are more likely to see each other as real people, not just words on a page that can be easily dismissed.

I’m a fan of writing clever, scathing emails to help me work out my feelings and then deleting them. Just don’t put in the recipients email address in case you “accidentally” hit send.

Love helps and so does humility. Since this is a Frozen summer in our house, I’ll quote from the soundtrack: People make bad choices when they’re mad or sad or stressed but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best. – Fixer Upper, Frozen Soundtrack

You’re not going to love everyone you ever get in a fight with but you can act in a loving way. That means not saying everything you want to say because to do so would be cruel. It means taking a step back when to continue to confront will only make it worse. It means accepting that a complicated situation may not have a succinct resolution. And most importantly, it means looking for ways to understand why the other person feels the way they do so that you both can let go hurt, anger and disappointment.

Conflict divides us and humility connects us. We want the people we disagree with to look different from us. We want to be able to safely put people in the “them” category away from “us”. We call them names, say they’re crazy, list the reasons why we’re not like them all in an attempt to justify our righteousness. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my recovery road it’s that we’re more like “them” than we dare to admit and the behaviors that bug us most are usually the ones we despise in ourselves. There’s an old phrase: You spot it, you got it. If you can point it out in someone else, it’s because you’re guilty of it too. If you can recognize that, you can show kindness, even when you’re pissed off.

Not everyone is going to like you. Crazy, right? I’m so likable and sweet and funny. My motives are pure, my heart so true. It’s inconceivable that there are people out there that can’t stand the sound of my voice or the smirk on my precious little face. Hard to imagine, I know.

I spent a lot of time trying to convince people to like me and it was a waste of time. Do you know why? Because liking people is overrated. You can love someone and not like them very much. That’s how little it matters. We fall in and out of like all the time and we’re so fickle about it. We click “like” on statuses, photos and comments as if we’re gracing people with our praise but those likes bestowed upon us say nothing about who we are as people, only about what we’re showing the world.

I like to be liked. More accurately, I like it when people approve of my opinions or actions. I enjoy seeing a bunch of “likes” at the bottom of my blog post but that’s not the same as being liked for who I am as a person. And if someone doesn’t like me, I no longer try to change their mind because their feelings say more about them than about me. The same is true when I don’t like someone. Don’t try to resolve a conflict solely because you can’t stand it when someone doesn’t like you. Winning them over does not mean you win.

It’s good to leave some things unspoken. That doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you or not stand up for yourself. It means that if you take a step back from a disagreement, some things will work themselves out in the silence. During different phases in my life I either confronted everyone who I felt wronged me or slunk off with my tail between my legs. I finally found a middle ground where I won’t allow myself to be mistreated, but I’m not quick to anger and defend.

Hopefully, these insights will help me the first time someone criticizes one of my kids or they get picked on. That’s when I’ll really get the chance to smoke what I’m selling. I’ll tell you how it goes.

 

 

 

34 Comments on “What I Hope To Remember The Next Time Someone Pisses Me Off

  1. Had to come back to read this one again.

    …It means accepting that a complicated situation may not have a succinct resolution. And most importantly, it means looking for ways to understand why the other person feels the way they do so that you both can let go hurt, anger and disappointment.

    Love that.

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  2. Ah, the joys of motherhood =D I haven’t quite worked that one out, either. When it comes to people mistreating my children, the best I can say is that I’ve avoided arrest lol

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  3. Nicely put. Spot you got it always rings true for me. I have to say that saying less has worked well when I stick to it. I like dash of humility you sprinkled in. I take back “nicely put”. This is a great post.

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  4. I’m SO guilty of the quick-response heated email. It’s the worst when you look back over it and realize they are just angry words that barely make sense. Then you feel even worse because you losing your cool means the other person “won.” I usually operate under the theory that it drives people insane when you won’t engage, and in the end you will feel better for it.

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  5. So accurate on many points. For so long I was geared towards placating and charming people, denying myself simply to butter them up and make them like me, but instead of this clearing any real interpersonal paths for me it just made me resentful that I wasn’t honoring myself. No more. Very insightful and well-written.

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  6. This is so great, Karen. It’s wise and kind and funny. Like you! Yeah, I don’t like not being liked but kind of getting over it. Recovery teaches so much I guess. I liked your tip about writing the no holds barred email, but leaving the person’s email off!

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    • You’re so sweet! Thank you. I’m getting over not being liked too and I tend to dislike people less than I used to (as long as I stay off Facebook). 😉

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      • It’s funny the part of your that is so salient for everyone and me is the part about people liking you. And since I’ve stopped drinking, my own critical tendencies towards others have really decreased, too… Somehow easier to give others the benefit of the doubt when you see more clearly.

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  7. What? You don’t want an out-the-blue nastygram? I don’t understand that 🙂 I agree with what you say – but I have to say that writing out my worries in a letter or email (but not a nastygram) helps me to sort out things in a calm manner. I’m apt to SAY ugly things more than write ugly things – and, for me, I think this is because I reread all my emails a few times before I send them and I often cringe at some of the words I’ve spewed forth – whereas in the heat of the moment, I might say something really ugly and spiteful out of a pure knee-jerk response.

    I’ve received a couple of very hurtful nastygrams that completely blindsided me – and I felt that the person really took advantage of that ‘digital courage’ to say some awful things – so much so I did NOT want to even see them face-to-face b/c I was so upset. But I didn’t email back right away because of much of what you spoke about above – I think that at the end of the day, regardless of talking or writing (but not texting or tweeting!) it’s about doing it with a calm mind not an enraged attitude. Exactly as you point out.

    Are you sure not everyone likes me? 🙂

    Another brilliant and insightful post, my friend ~

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    • I like you and that’s all that matters. 😉

      It seems to me that email exchanges are appropriate when the conflict isn’t heated. When it’s more about hurt feelings, an email might be a good way to go. Thank you for your brilliant and insightful comment, my friend!

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  8. FANTASTIC! What a great time to write it and reflect. I have very few conflicts (blessed!) but I still remember one e-mail sent that I wish I could take back. Someone hurt me and even though I wrote and slept on it over night…it hurt that other person right back when I hit send. Problem resolved–face to face!
    I’m sending your post to my sweet daughter who lives in an apartment with five other girls…a great spot for a “Frozen Household”
    Loved this, Karen!!

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    • Thank you Michelle! I’ve sent many emails like that, I hate to admit. It’s been over a year since I engaged in an email conflict but the yucky feelings remain. I hope this is helpful to your daughter!

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  9. Wow. How could you know I was going through something just like this, lol? Your post hits very close to the heart. I appreciate your thoughts. They’re insightful and gave me that ounce of clarity I needed as I work through a rough patch with a friend whom relies more on that digital courage you speak of, and not actual dialogue. Thank you.

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  10. Yes, all of it. Good stuff here and some of it not so easy to hear or admit our part. Thanks for this. This is a keeper for future reference.

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  11. What a great list, Karen. To go along with #1, I’ll add that a now-retired colleague once told me years ago that when dealing with problems around the courthouse “I’ve found that more communication is almost always better than less.” It’s turned out to be true (and I especially like that he included the qualifier “almost”!).

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    • I like the “almost” too. The challenge is knowing when to talk and when to listen – something I’m still learning, especially with my kids! Thanks Tim!

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  12. If I were the writer of this post, the title would be “The Opposite of What I Do To Handle Conflict.” Karen, this is great stuff, I hope the new business you work with your husband is a conflict resolution company!

    What particularly resounded with me is, “Sending off a one-sided email where we get to say whatever we want and no one can interrupt us sounds so appealing but It’s easy to misread a person’s tone, intentions and sincerity, which can lead to more conflict.” This is me to a tee… not that I’m going to say mean-spirited things, that’s not my style even on email, but assertive things that I do not have the courage to say face to face.

    I also really liked “winning someone over does not mean you win.” I am tweeting that out from my Twitter as soon as I wrap up this comment 🙂

    Thanks for starting my Saturday with some wisdom, Karen!

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    • Thanks Josie! I’m far from an expert but if I actually remember to read my own tips, I’ll probably be ok the next time I want to go off on someone. Have a great weekend! 🙂

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  13. I need to print this and then keep it on me. Then again, who am I kidding – I will probably want to resort to my old tried and not-at-all true methods where I end up chewing on resentment and composing lengthy manifestos against my “enemies”. Okay, maybe it’s not that either. But what you say is bang on – usually what I dislike in someone is something I see (consciously or unconsciously) in others. Or they just plain grate on me. But love and tolerance…that’s our code as they say.

    There is something in 12-step literature that talks about “restraint of pen and tongue”. And that is something I have REALLY needed to work on, especially in early recovery, where I was almost just *waiting* for someone to piss me off so I could unleash with my latest clever bon mots and festering anger. Oops – bad play. I use that email with blank subject line trick too, although it’s been some time since I have had to use it. I am not bulletproof in the want-to-retaliate arena, but I am a proponent of “do you want to be right, or happy?” thinking. Sometimes, as you mentioned, the best thing is to just put the spear down and walk away. Works for my serenity, that’s for sure, as much as my ego wants nothing more than a to lay down a good ol’f ashioned whoopin’.

    And finally, that whole thing of others not liking us – what’s with that?? ha ha…impossible to believe, right??? But someone told me once – not everyone is going to like you anyway, so might as well be yourself fully completely.

    Makes sense to me 🙂

    Awesome post, Karen 🙂

    Paul

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    • There was a time when I wanted to be right at ALL cost and it totally affected my happiness. It was directly tied to wanting to be liked. When I got into recovery, I noticed that the people I most wanted to emulate weren’t confrontational. I wanted the peace I saw in them. Thank you for sharing your insight Paul! As always, you bring so much to the conversation!

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