Three weeks ago I finally decided to confront a condescending co-worker. It was the toughest thing I ever did. I chickened out a couple times, and then finally, on the weekend, I wrote the email.
I did not know what to expect--an explosive argument or a concession and apology.
For years I have been saddled by misplaced, lapsed anger about what I should’ve/could’ve done during past episodes when I felt disrespected/condescended to/bullied. I always walk away, priding myself on my non-violent/argumentative stance. I convinced myself I was taking the high road—when they go low, I go high. Ultimately, this was a lie I told myself, a lie to hide my insecurities, fears, anxieties and cowardice, even. I backed down because I was afraid to stand up for myself. It allowed others to get away with believing they could do and say whatever to me they liked, because I would back down.
This led to years of “chip on shoulder” emotions boiling over. In my head were a slew of "trigger" words: so? No! Go! (spoken condescendingly or angrily). I couldn't escape the ruminations, nor obsessing over every slight. When it got bad, I seriously considered contacting those who’d wronged me in the past to confront them, be it social media or in-person. Ultimately, these solutions felt weird. The past was gone. Here was now. So, I focused on something else –the next time, I’d speak up.
Despite vowing to speak out when I am wronged, I didn't. I still found myself letting incidents slide, partly burdened by my own lack of confidence in my own judgment --did that person mean to speak down to me, I would ask myself. What if I was making a big deal out of nothing? What if I misinterpreted.? At the end of the day, I realized I was stalling and making excuses.
I knew I had to express my feelings. But, how to express myself with words when I wasn't big on talking? I resorted to my strong point--writing. I wrote my thoughts down, went over the words, made sure they said what I wanted to say, tone and everything, conveyed. I did this with the co-worker, and then I hit sent.
The worst of it was over. Once the inevitable happened --my coworker read it and responded, I received an apology. Of course, this went over better than most real life scenarios, and I partly banked on my coworker's personality and professionalism for a smooth resolution. I know in real life standing up to someone, particularly a stranger, or a bully with a bad personality, won’t be so easy. Nonetheless, it’s a breakthrough, the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself too many times to count. Stand up for yourself. Speak up. Keeping it all inside won’t help. Trust me.