Dear Colleen:

You asked how I deal with mean people and I am shortanswerless. Is that a real word? No. But, that is what I am.

I get “you deal with people so well” all the time. How do I do it? Perhaps it is my overwhelming desire to please? Maybe it is my curiosity about every inane detail of everyone I meet? Could I be a hoarder who collects acquaintances? I really don’t know because it comes naturally.

I do know that whatever it is, comes with some negative side effects.

As a pleaser, I tend to let others’ opinions supplant my own… for the greater good!

Despite my curiosity in other people’s lives, I tend to forget the details. This often results in someone’s feelings being hurt by my forgetfulness. When I mean forget details, I really mean forget names. Like first names and the names of person x’s children. I have tried several “memory tricks” to no avail. If I ever forget your name, don’t feel neglected. I probably remember your zip code and possibly the scent of your cologne. But, it is creepy to talk about that.

Another downside to being naturally amenable is the inability to handle conflict. If it is CONFLICT, I got it covered. I will cut you. Seriously. I know how. Don’t mess with me, my family or my friends. But if it is below life threatening levels and above a difference of opinion, particularly if it is fueled by good ole fashioned crazy, I freeze.

For example, I was in Target. YES, I am ALWAYS in Target. Baby was with me (this story is prior to any teething). She tends to get a great deal of attention when we go out. I am sure all babies do. A woman approached me. She spoke of how cute M was and interacted with her very sweetly. It was near nap time and M was a bit slack jawed and unresponsive at the time. I am not sure if the woman was annoyed that M didn’t coo back in an animated fashion or what, but what she said next was out of the ordinary:

“Her tongue sticks out too much. You need to nip that in the bud. My mother didn’t when my sister was an infant and she has always looked like a mongoloid.”

*plink*

*plink*

She then walked away.

I said nothing. I couldn’t. My first response was to punch her in the face. So, I restricted my body from any movement as to prevent that from happening. Even if I could have operated my mouth without engaging my fists, I would have said nothing. I had no words then; I have no words now.

There are so many problems with what she said. In short, I hope her sister has become insanely successful and makes this woman feel so inadequate that her only joy in life is to insult stranger’s babies.

This is not the first time I have frozen in the face of meanness. Abusive boss. Bully school mates. Perplexing family members. So called friends.

I do know that I pay them no time. I may freeze in the face of their mean spiritedness. That is only because their behavior is so unnatural to me. I will give them my I-am-disgusted-by-you-but-don’t-have-energy-to-explain-your-sub-humaness-to-you smile, turn and walk away.  If I cannot walk away because they are in family or employment circles, I avoid them if possible and go super saccharine sweet when around them. Bullies are as perplexed by my kindness as I am with their rudeness.

I would love the super power of the perfect come back. But, that might introduce more meanness into my life than I could stand. The best thing I can do is go and be genuinely sweet to those I love, respect and enjoy their company… even if I can’t remember their name.

I wish you peace, good friend, and the ability to continue letting it roll off your back like you have been!

Love,

P

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