Well I’ll be damned. Pissing people off

Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t”. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I hear it said all the time – maybe because it resonates and I have always tried to avoid being ‘damned’. I simply couldn’t cope with the apparent rejection before. However I am learning that it’s OK if my actions may sometimes piss people off. I can’t always take credit.  You can’t actually piss people off. They do it to themselves so  I don’t have to feel guilty or please everyone all the time. It’s impossible anyway. I don’t have to tiptoe through life being ultra careful, not putting forth any views and worrying about what I have said all the time in case if offended.  (So often I would later find out the person didn’t think a thing about it and I did all that worrying for nothing!)  I can be me. And you can be you. We don’t have to agree on everything in order to be friends.  Far from it!

I think my ‘time was right so the teacher is here’ and my learning is moving ahead. Here is some of what I’ve read recently.

John Williams in his book ‘Screw Work Let’s Play’ –  “If you are not pissing people off you are probably not doing it right.” That’s in reference to marketing yourself and your unique skills. He figures that if you are making yourself vanilla to try to please everyone, you will thrill no one I guess.

Barbara Sher willingly admits she probably says things that people don’t agree with and she is OK with that. ‘Get a lawyer’ she jokes. I love the example she sets.

Seth Godin says in business to find your niche market, your followers, and don’t worry about the rest. You then have more time to build meaningful relationships with your real customers.

Benjamin J Harvey says you only need 10,000 customers in the whole world to have a great business and you should be pleased when the rest, who don’t like or really care about you, leave. Sort out quickly who they are.

So this makes sense in a business way.

For me it makes sense in life also. The advice that really hit home for me this week came from John Williams. He says that if someone’s reaction seems to be out of proportion to the event, or to what you have done, then you may have triggered their emotional baggage. That simple thought has changed so much for me. Clarifying what I probably knew on some level renews my filter on seeing the world and the people in it. I can let it go, not feel upset, guilty or take on board the reactions I get from other people. I spent my life tiptoeing around trying not to displease; trying to be loved by all. I do not set out intentionally to upset anyone of course. Not in a million years. Yet I sometimes managed it, especially when on an enthusiastic rant about something. Forget ‘Foot in mouth’ – My foot is so far down there that it may be poking out the other end! I excel at that. Turn me inside out, why don’t you! Thank god I can laugh after I have finished blushing. I am trying to think of some agonising examples. Maybe another time….

Where was I? So it took me years to work out that not everyone will like you. But I didn’t understand why and now I do. To me, we are all the same, born the same with the same building blocks, more or less. We are human. Then we are shaped by life and though our essence is the same, the grooves and connections we form in our brain start to differ – enormously. And this is where we are surprised. Andrew Roberts in ‘How to be Happy’ says we should be surprised and delighted if we do have anything in common, not if we differ on something, as we are so unique.

Have you come across someone that seems to be offended by you a lot? (Do you avoid them?) And are you totally confused because you didn’t say anything you haven’t said a hundred times before to other people yet they ‘damn you’ when you offend them? For example I might be talking about something stupid I did and making fun of it, but the other person thinks I am taking a dig at them, because it’s too close to home to something they dislike themselves for. They get defensive and conversation freezes over.

I once offended someone by asking where the Salvation Army charity bin was, in Florida, to put my daughter’s hardly used, expensive dolls in as we had no room in our suitcases once we had bought her new ones. She tried to say that America didn’t take charity and was she quite ruffled.   I explained that these bins are found everywhere in Australia for belongings in good condition and she calmed down a little. You can’t win all the time. You hit a nerve, puncture a hidden water pipe and Whoosh! Oops. As long as you have an understanding of the principle of difference, and are tolerant of that,  it doesn’t have to go south from there. Apologise if necessary, explain and remember never to mention it to that person again. 🙂 No point escalating and getting defensive back because you disagree.  If you get upset, it shows they have then pushed your ’emotional baggage’ buttons!

Anyway I digress. By ‘damned’ I guess Eleanor means eliciting these kind of reactions, often unexpected. I work in customer service, building relationships with lovely people. It is a fantastic job as we have always treated our customers really well (I am given the time and space to do that luckily) but every so often so I come across someone who implies that the world is going to end because of their perceived injustice at the hands of the company I work for. They write emails using a lot of Capital letters, blame and threats over an item worth a few dollars. A global business decision was once translated as a personal affront to a lady’s town, her people and herself.

Thank goodness I am in a good place or I might get defensive and upset myself. The whole team at work are mums in their 40s and 50s, I wonder if that’s by design?  Anyway I once had someone email me ‘Thanks Emma for your totally useless suggestions!’ and you should have seen the rest of the angry correspondence! I laughed and wanted to hug her, which no doubt she would have found condescending. Most people thank me for those same suggestions. I wanted to tell that woman that everything will be OK. I can’t imagine where her life’s path is leading, but I am guessing it is not a peaceful inner life. I only see this kind of abusive communication from time to time. She must be used to it. I really wish her well.

So my puzzle is slowly coming together. I now understand why you will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I don’t take it personally if I can possibly help it and I will continue to do what I feel in my heart to be right. Thanks Eleanor and John for clarifying.

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