Ever have a momentary experience with a very challenging person?
My wife went through two of these in the last two days and came home upset as a result. One was with an irreverent receptionist at a dental office who seemed to fancy herself for her brashness and exaggerated snippy and sarcastic comments, all in the paper-thin guise of humour. She made derogatory comments about our dental insurance plan and a scheduling question. My wife was so taken aback, that she didn’t even know what to say in the moment and just left. You know those experiences?
The other was in a business situation in which someone threatened to diss our name in the profession we are in. They made some completely unfounded accusations about us hiring someone away from them, when in reality, the prospective employee approached us and offered up this person as a reference.
What’s my point? In debriefing these disturbing incidents with my wife, the question that begged to be asked was,
“If these momentary experiences with these people were typical of how they are, would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?
It was only natural that my wife and I thought of several retaliatory comebacks to these people. None of which we are following through on. Why would we? Their behaviours are likely to carry their own consequences far greater than any rebuttal or reprimand that we could give. And how is it even worth our time or energy? We have a tremendous number of priorities with family, business, home, and life. Where does correcting, reprimanding, or telling-off a stranger fit amongst our priorities. It doesn’t.
The threat to bad-mouth us was in all likelihood benign. Besides which, who is likely to take seriously such an erratic person. Especially if this behaviour is typical. Is it not more likely that if she did say anything, that others would just roll their eyes, and dismiss her comments as more bitterness from a disturbed person. And we have an otherwise flawless name in our profession. Do we not have confidence in who we are and what our capabilities are? Are we going to be dissuaded by one unbalanced, rude, probably sick person?
And for the dental receptionist, we may simply and calmly either find a new dentist, or calmly describe the episode to the dentist at next visit. Surely, this will not be the first this dentist has heard of the receptionists tone and behaviour.
Can you imagine what the families of these two people go through? If the families in fact still have anything to do with them. Their kids, their spouses? Seriously, if these were just momentary samplings of their behaviours, what must it be like to be them or be around them continuously? Clinically speaking, their lives must suck.
Recovery has taught me that I seldom need to retaliate and that the behaviour of the foolish and unhealthy will be its own consequence. My main responsibility is to myself and my family. I am not the equalizer of the universe. I am not the messenger to all who for whom I have a distaste. And if I have anything to say, it will more often be in a calm, collected frame of mind after processing the initial impact of the disturbing event. In fact, I am less prone to using words at all, I would just speak with my feet and walk away, leaving them to their own self-imposed misery.
This may sound cold, but a much better alternative to investing time and energy into someone you may never see again or who is not looking to change.