Friday, 14 November 2008

OverRated: Not Making a Fuss

I went on a course recently that was basically about getting on with people in the workplace but everything that was being addressed applied equally to our day to day family and social lives as well. Accepting that everyone is different and trying to see things from another's perspective. One of the concepts mentioned was 'not making a fuss'.

We allow something that has upset us to go unchallenged at home or at work. Some ill-judged word, a dismissive tone of voice or an action that someone else thought was amusing but which made us feel uncomfortable. So many of us tend to just let it go for the quiet life and then, when it happens again, we wonder 'Did I allow this situation to recur because I said nothing the first time?'

The answer, of course, is 'Yes'.

If something that you don't like happens to you directly or to someone else in your sphere, you should speak up. Silence perpetuates the problem because it allows the perpetrator the green light to continue. And if it starts to repeat, resentment will ensue. Remaining quiet just ferments the irritation, bubbling under the surface until the point where it goes bang and erupts in a big messy argument.

Far better to deal with the issue when it is still small and fresh than the deluge of effluvia contained in a long-held grievance.

If only I had been given this piece of advice when I was younger, instead of being conditioned into putting up and shutting up. My Dad used to hate queueing and would always make a big fuss if he had to. It was totally embarrassing for both us and my mother. Her way was to remain silent and tolerate any inconvenience, both in public and in private. But it also meant that she didn't draw attention to my father's way of denigrating her as the butt of some of his jokes when she obviously felt very uncomfortable.

I grew up to repeat this behaviour after she left. If he behaved badly, I would eventually get upset over a specific incident rather than drawing his attention to the pattern of bullying, for that is effectively what it was. He would be mortified if he realised that and would never have done it intentionally but some people (even television funnymen) have a 'sense of humour' that feeds off the discomfort or physical shortfalls of others and unless it is drawn to their attention, they will never understand the unkindness of that type of comedy.

I also did not complain when my own Husband behaved in a similar fashion, laughing at me in front of friends and family and making me feel not good enough. I lived my life wearing a continual big smile to disguise the very repressed and angry person that was eating away at my insides until it built up to such a degree that there would have to be an emotional outburst far exceeding the scale of the triggering transgression. This, in turn, led my Husband to believe that I was prone to over-reacting and so he would ignore whatever I was moaning about because it would soon blow over.

In reality, the air was never cleared and the problem returned to fester in the depths of my soul. I told Ruf recently that I would never justify my presence in someone's life ever again. Never feel that I was somehow not good enough for them. If they didn't care enough to verbally, emotionally and physically demonstrate their pleasure that I was there, then I obviously shouldn't be. It is something that has been a bone of contention throughout my life and a major instigator of my bouts of anorexia so I am trying very hard to face up to it now to avoid any more repetition.

I have been in work situations where one person has said something to another that I know was uncalled for. The person running the course said that if it makes you ill at ease as an observer, then it most likely has the same effect on the recipient, who will be sitting there thinking 'Is it just me?'. If no one else says anything, then that person will believe that they are being thin-skinned and remain silent, so the bully gets away with it to come back another day. If other people voice their concerns in the victim's defence, then the aggressor might think twice about their words the next time.

We owe a duty to other people as well as to ourselves to speak out when something is not right.



Anonymous said...

It's the old saying, you teach what you permit. I didn't learn it early either.

Polar said...

Thank you for bringing this action of mine to my attention.
I will attempt to remember to stand to someone's defence, andd attempt to do it in a resectful way.
And yes, I do enjoy you being apart of my world...even though the distance separate us!!

justme said...

Excellent points here. It is so easy to 'let things go' and 'not make a fuss', because of course, quite often things that are said, taken in isolation, are NOT so bad. Its the gradual drip, drip that gets to you in the end. I totally understand the smiling and pretending its funny way of dealing with hurtful comments in public. I did that when I was younger too. Now I just dont. And I don't laugh when I see other people treating people like that either. A LOT of people make 'jokes' about their partners in public. If no one laughed, maybe they would realise that casual cruelty is not a joke.

NYD said...

It's good to speak up for what you believe in just make sure that when you open your mouth in someone else's defence you don't put your foot in it.

having my cake said...

Hope - I think those of us of a certain age fall between two generational stools so to speak. The one before us where it's ok to say what you like as long as it's meant to be a joke and the one after us where it's just ok to say what you like because you won't be called to account for it.

Polar - I think the respect thing is also very important. They may well be a repeat offender but normally it's through ignorance rather than malice.

Justme - that's it! The drip, drip eroding your confidence away.

NYD - Now that's a whole different post isnt it :) I have various friends who have stepped into an altercation to defend what looked like a victim and found themselves having to fend off both irate partners.

Can Bass 1 said...

Goodness, that sounds like a course we could do with here in the cathedral. You should see the way the Dean and Chapter talk to and about each other! I'm just glad I'm only in the choir.

Trixie said...

I always speak out, dunno if it's an ozzie thing or not. I've never been one for put up or shut up. I've embarassed a few brits over the past with my attitude, but if you've got a problem, deal with it.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I assume your husband is a good-looking chap. There must be some reason why you married him. Has he ever said anything nice to you?