I’ve been talking quite a bit about my childhood lately, which is very ironic, since I don’t remember much of it firsthand. (That’s another story, very complicated) There are many things I know about growing up though, partly due to stories I’ve been told, and some things that show in my everyday life.
I grew up with a step father that loved to argue. He was a crafty, manipulative man, and used humiliation and belittlement to win most bouts. I learned a lot of useful, horrible skills from that abusive past, and I have to consciously work every day not to do the same to my kids.
I don’t know why I’m a decent person today, because I could really be a jerk. As an adult, I’ve never lost an argument. Really. I’ve never lost a single one. Oh, I’ve been dead wrong lots of times — but never lost the argument. It’s a defense mechanism, I’m sure, but the real downside is I have to be very careful not to hurt and belittle during regular discussions. Seriously, I have make an effort every single time.
In my job, I’m often confronted with angry people that shift their frustrations directly at me. My first few years on the job, I responded off the cuff. I belittled, humiliated, and hurt those folks. I’m good at it, mind you, so I would very rarely hear back anything but apologies (usually forced by their superiors, because of course I made my lashing public). The problem is that people would HATE me, but have no real reason they could pinpoint. When you hate someone, but don’t know why — you want to be mean to them. That’s what happened. It got ugly.
So, I’ve spent the last few years trying to be the better person. I try not to take things personally, and always, ALWAYS communicate with people calmly. (Not the fake calm that wins arguments, but really calm, where the desire to destroy the opponent is gone)
Today, I was accused of responding quickly and harshly by a friend. I must admit, it took every bit of restraint I could muster not to do just that. It’s funny how things are relative. Compared to my instincts, I’m a pussy cat. Compared to the norm, I guess, I’m still edgy. Go figure.
So do I have a personality flaw, or do I just refuse to get bullied? Who knows. I never draw first blood, so I suppose my verbal karate is only used in defense. Mr. Miyagi would be proud.