It happens to all of us… well to most of us, from time to time. Someone says something unkind or totally mean about me to me. I become about 8 years old and say an adult version of “You big meanie pants. That’s not true. So there!” Since we’re adults, my response might sound reasonable and rational at first. However, things can degrade quickly to something more like, “Hey jerk, that’s not true. You’re a bozo and so is your mother ” or much worse.
I understand that sometimes people are just unhappy. And in their unhappy-land, they seem to want other people to be unhappy too. Perhaps it seems to them that they will be a step above unhappy if they can make someone else a bit more unhappy than they are. So they make their mission to go out trolling for a willing victim to get sucked into some verbal battle. Note the word willing. You’ve got to agree to the be a participant in this bad party.
I got pulled into one recently online. Not awful but after a bit, I realized that I had taken the bait. One moment I was fine then in a few moments I was being painted as the enemy of all things good and pure so I walked away. He did apologize the next day as did I. But the awful energy had been slated over both of us and released to the universe.
How not to take the bait?
1- In meditation, I often teach about the pause. “Inhale fully, pause, then release the breath.” To me, step one to not take the bait is to pause and breathe. This pause allows me a moment to not react. It lets me collect my thoughts so I can decide if I want to respond. If I decide to engage, I need that pause to choose my words carefully . Whether online or even in person, there’s time to pause.
2- If you choose to respond, perhaps the first statement is to restate what you think your challenger’s concern is. Sometimes, I don’t hear the true intent. Maybe I’m not being criticized but just misunderstood the meaning of our reviewer.
3- Is the criticism valid? In a recent online confrontation, my challenger spoke with over the top public judgement of me and my values. However, he was right about one thing. I had written one sentence in a brochure that offended him. He had misunderstood my meaning. I did rewrite the one sentence that brought him to attack because I didn’t want it misunderstood by others.
4- You can not engage. It’s not necessary to enter into a discussion with everyone who swings the bait in front of you. You can opt to say, “I hear your statement but I don’t wish to discuss this.” This likely won’t satisfy your critic but life is not a popularity contest. Not everyone needs to like me or agree with me.
5- If the discussion is online, you often have the option to delete an inappropriate comment. I wonder sometimes if a certain personality just leaves nasty comments all over the place in hopes of engaging someone. Often, my deletion of their nastiness goes unnoticed.
I’m sensitive, I know that. So without learning how to not take the bait, I can get really upset over a thoughtless comment. I can spend too much time trying to explain, justify myself and turn the exchange around so my debater begs forgiveness. Often, I expend a lot more energy than the situation warrants. Who cares if one person disagrees with me? Who cares if the person says mean things about me. Oh well. Everyone has an opinion. Some people value their own opinion very highly but I don’t have to do that also.
To me it comes down to deciding if a intelligent discussion of differences is possible. Then am I willing to get involved in the discussion? Do I have the time? Does it seem that important to me? Or can I just take a deep breath, excuse myself and walk on through my happy life.
I often choose, one deep breath and walk.