I recently had to deal with a very strong personality. When I say “deal with,” I mean I had to confront an aggressive man with a peacock complex and questionable respect for women and get him to do something he did not want to do.
This man, Jim, was doing work on our backyard and he was large in every way: height, presence, voice volume. He filled your space, stole your authority, and everything went his way. His words were fast and forceful, leaving you with nothing to say except: “Sounds good, Jim.” We found ourselves agreeing to contract changes that we should not agree to and then we found ourselves with a problem.
I have to mention what irked me most about Jim was that he called me “sweetie.” I hated him calling me that, it was condescending and it filled me with a useless rage. Not to mention, Jim calling me sweetie made me feel like a sweetie, like a silly little girl who did not need to be taken seriously. It was his way of subtly putting me in my place and it was annoyingly effective.
I knew our confrontation was coming for 24 hours, so I marinated WAY too long in the anticipation. I practiced what I was going to say, I bounced ideas off my husband, I imagined push-back scenarios. The only thing this marinating accomplished was that I became more and more nervous, which made me more and more insecure. I let it saturate me and I came out all soggy dog. What a lousy foundation from which to confront Jim. I felt like such a sweetie.
Then on my drive home to meet Jim something interesting happened. I started thinking about energy and how because his energy was more overt, mine was diluted. I realized this only happened because I allowed him to dilute me, I allowed him be stronger than me, I gave him my permission. A simple sentence came into my head and shifted everything. The sentence was: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” It was utterly true. He wasn’t more powerful, he just acted like it. I wasn’t a sweetie, I just acted like it.
For the rest of my drive, each time I said that sentence, I believed it more completely. I became calm and certain, and now looked forward to our confrontation.
This time when Jim walked in the door I felt taller than him. This time when he called me sweetie it did not dilute me. This time I was the bigger presence. Using advanced ESP, I sent him my sentence: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.” I let him and his voice volume talk at me for a bit, filling the space with blah blah blah. I smiled as he talked, I was cooler than a stoned Snoop Dogg, y’all. When he was satisfied with the blah blah blah, I said: “Jim, let’s go take a walk.” I saw him visibly taken aback, he stumbled over some words and followed me outside.
We walked through the backyard and I pointed out the issues we had with his work. I presented him with two options to fix them, and instantly he agreed to one. I was not bitchy, I was not pushy, but I was not a sweetie. I was stronger than Jim and he knew it. It was that simple to confront him.
Jim left agreeing to a lower bill and doing more work for free, and we were not enemies. But, he did not call me sweetie as he left, he used my name.
I found there was difference between Jim’s strength and mine. His was aggressive, contrived, and turbulent. Mine was serene, steady, and gentle. I didn’t have to resort to aggression to tame his aggression, I just had to be a strong me.
I wonder now about all the times in my life that I played small, that I played the sweetie because that’s where I thought I belonged. How many Jims have overtalked me and dictated what happens to me? I always thought that since I wasn’t a combative person, that equated to me being weaker. But that’s not true at all. Strength is a personal choice and you choose its form, so choose one that fits. Sometimes strength is a calm, kind approach. And sometimes sweeties are the strongest.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
When Jim comes to your door, channel Snoop D-O-double-G and know that he is only stronger when you allow him to be.