I Don’t Have it in Me to be Mean – Mostly

I’ve been told I’m nice more times than I can count.  I suppose it’s true.  I don’t seem to be able to be mean to people, even when I probably should, I just don’t seem to have that gene in me. Maybe it’s not genetic.  It may be that I saw my mom being mean to people when I was young and knew it was wrong to act like that.  Things we experience as children influence us greatly throughout our lives.

I’m not sure which came first with me, my abhorrence of being mean or rude to people, or me just being nice.  It’s also why I jokingly refer to myself as a “freak magnet.”  Yep, I can attract em like no one else.  If we’re at a bar, and some homeless guy (or gal) walks in, they will seek me out and engage me.  I just don’t have it in me to ask them to leave me alone, so I listen to their stories.  Partially, this is curiosity, but the bigger part is my inability to tell someone to go away, and my empathy for their situation.  I always hope that if I ever really need to talk to someone, the favor will be returned.

I get worse with age

As I’ve gotten older, I definitely have more ability to express my frustration with a situation, but I can’t just blindly be rude or mean to the person I’m dealing with.  First, it’s hardly ever that person’s fault.  My frustration usually stems from a systematic form of stupidity that far exceeds the hourly worker standing in front of me.  But even if it’s the person I’m dealing with who deserves my scorn, I just will leave, without expressing myself.  If it’s a situation where I should leave a tip, I will leave a bad one.  Maybe.  That really depends on the situation. I usually just leave a minimum tip, because I know this person lives on their tips and even if they were bad at their job, I don’t have it in me to punish them financially.

But why?  Why do I have this feeling that I have to be nice to everyone?  In the bar situation, it exhausts me.  I’m an introverted person, but I have an extroverted side that comes out from time to time.  It seems that being mean or rude uses all of that extrovert energy immediately.

More flies with honey

The whole thing frustrates my wife.  But, if we need to get past a gatekeeper of some sort, she always defers to me and asks me to handle it, knowing that I can always get forward movement.  I always tell her “You get more flies with honey.”  But the truth is, I have no choice.  I couldn’t be mean if I tried.  Maybe it’s because I believe in the karmic idea that what comes around, goes around, and I want to make sure I’m only putting good out into the world.  Maybe, I’m just weak and can’t bring myself to be mean because it would cause discomfort and no one wants to feel discomfort ever.  Unless they’re a masochist.  I’m not. Karma may just be a rationalization for me.

This spills over into my professional life somewhat as well.  My biggest challenge as a manager is having “difficult conversations” with my employees.  It’s rarely needed, but when it is, I tend to put it off until it has become a bigger issue than it needs to be. I have had a few such discussions with my staff/team recently, and I dreaded it, but at the same time, I was curious as to why they think they can continue to ignore my requests.  Could it be they know I won’t do anything about it?  They’re wrong, of course, I will do something about it.  I just need to make sure it’s phrased in a way that doesn’t sound mean and personal.  That’s difficult to do when emotions are in play, and my emotions are nearly always in play.

It’s all about self-control

I think that’s why I control it so much.  I feel that if I let just a little bit of meanness out, it will come pouring out, and I won’t be able to stop the flow.  Heaven forbid I lose my temper.  That’s only happened a handful of times the last 20 years, but when it does, I hate how I act.  I have a very long fuse and a very Irish temper.  To make me actually angry requires pushing and pushing.  When I finally have had enough, it’s always bad, and I always feel ashamed of how I acted.  But the person on the receiving end ALWAYS gives in immediately.

So it’s possible that I’m just trying to bottle up my temper as much as I can.  The problem is, my temper just keeps building when I control it so that I will ultimately have a meltdown.  At least I don’t blow on someone who doesn’t deserve it.  That’s probably my biggest fear.  That I’ll treat someone poorly who didn’t deserve it, and then I’ll feel guilty over it. My mom gave me weekly lessons on anger displacement.  Some things can’t be apologized for, or can’t be removed once they’ve been said, and I have the knowledge to really hurt someone to the quick because I generally know what makes people tick.  That means I inherently know how to push their buttons.  But I normally don’t.

Enough is enough

I also think that there’s enough meanness and rudeness in the world.  We don’t need more. We need more people to worry about how they treat each other like I do.  It would be a more fun place to be, that’s for sure.  We’ve lost all semblance of respect and common decency the last few years especially, and I don’t like what’s it done.  The problem is, it infuriates me, so if someone of a certain political sect turns to me and starts to rant or rave, I don’t have a lot of patience for that behavior.  Typically, I’ll throw something out that immediately challenges their views in a way they haven’t had to face before.  I won’t engage in an argument, just a discussion.  No one wants to have a discussion anymore, they just want to pick a fight.  Again, if you pick a fight with me, I will defend myself aggressively.  You won’t like the outcome.  As I calmly explain to people, I’ve never lost a fight.  That doesn’t mean I win all the time, that means I don’t lose.  That means the person engaging me will think, “I should have never done this.”   Now, that I think about it, I do have it in my to be mean.  I just lack the control of it.  I’m afraid of it.

It doesn’t happen often

The last time I lost my temper was a few years ago now, and I was being pushed by someone who was “trying to prove” something.  The way he did it was shitty, and he was trying to get me to agree with him, which I wouldn’t do.  Then, when I didn’t respond to his liking, he started to attack a friend of mine verbally.  I moved myself to a physically submissive position to try to show him that he can walk away at any time, as my anger proceeded to build.  When he couldn’t get anywhere attacking my friend or getting me to agree with his opinion of my friend, he tried to attack my integrity.  Apparently, that’s a touchy subject with me.  I snapped and moved from my submissive position to an extremely aggressive one instantly.  The look in his eyes was pure fear, and it calmed me down just enough to walk away.  I was so mad that if he said one more word against me or anyone else, I would have physically attacked him, blind with anger.  I was surrounded by friends, who saw the whole thing.  My son was actually ready to film it.  When another friend asked him why they didn’t jump in earlier and diffuse the situation, my son replied, “Wait, you’re gonna want to see this.”

I turn from mild-mannered nice guy to some sort of angry animal.  And quite literally lose control of myself. I guess that’s why I’m nice so much.  I don’t want to let that guy out to walk the streets.  I’m embarrassed that I have a temper that bad and even more embarrassed that I can’t control it when I’m pushed.  So I try every day to just keep going and not let anything bother me so I won’t have “an episode” as it’s being called.  That’s not nice, now is it?

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Photo by Ashley Whitlatch on Unsplash

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