Sometimes I feel the best thing I can do is to simply not get drawn into other people’s black holes of crazy. Crazy/angry/upset people have an energy about them that is like its own gravity. It is easy to get swept up and swept away. It is easy to get lost. It is easy to lose yourself.
I remember a time when a manager was arguing with me over the best way to handle a bad situation. The computers at work had stopped working. We still could check out patron’s items to them using a system I’d been trained in and used for ten years. However, it turned out that there was another way to do it that was new. This manager was literally screaming at me, saying I had to learn the new procedure right then. The way I had been trained worked well and would not have caused any problems. Right in the middle of a bad situation is not the time to learn a new procedure. It is a great time to stick with a known good.
She got very upset with me that I refused to even try the new procedure right then. I believe that part of her anger came from the fact that my previous boss should have taught us this, and she can’t stand her. I also believe that part of her anger came from the fact that she is supposed to be in charge and she really isn’t, because of office politics.
I felt myself getting drawn into her anger. I was feeling her anger and tension. This used to be common for me. I’d get that “deer in the headlights look” when someone would argue or yell at me, and lose myself in the mix. I’d sort of stop being there, unintentionally choosing to mentally escape. I hate feeling like that. I’ve prayed about it, and I’ve read books and taken classes on nonviolent conflict resolution. But it is hard to be objective about what is going on when you are in the middle of it.
But then something happened. Somehow at that moment I was able to step outside of my feelings and observe them. I didn’t like how I felt. I didn’t like having an argument about something that didn’t need to be argued about right then, or ever, really. There is very little in life that needs to be yelled about. Is the building on fire? Yell. Is there a policy change? Don’t yell. Seems easy.
In the middle of that getting-worse situation, I looked at her and calmly said “We aren’t arguing about this right now.” And somehow, miraculously, we weren’t. It stopped. The black hole of crazy lost all of its power. It stopped sucking, in more ways than one. The situation got handled and it was OK.
I was stunned. I was surprised that for once I was able to be objective in that crazy moment. I was surprised that simply saying that we weren’t going to argue meant that we didn’t. I’m thankful for this new learning, that it takes two to argue. By my intentional action, peace happened. By my presence and calm, the argument was stopped. Peace can start with just one person.