Standing Up For Yourself

I’m coming up on the late 40’s, and I often think I’m learning things and experiencing things I should have in my early 20’s or earlier. Once a hillbilly in his 60’s who couldn’t read walked into town, into the library, and said, “I can’t read.” So the librarian arranged for him to learn how to read. They made a TV movie out of the story. I guess it’s better late than never. I admire the guy’s, I don’t think courage is the right word, maybe straightforwardness is better.

I guess he felt the handicap he suffered by not learning to read was worse than the embarrassment and trouble of admitting his ignorance and working to end it at an old age. Maybe that’s part of life, which problem is worse? There is no easy way most of the time; the question is which hard way is better for you.

My boss called me up tonight and wanted me to do something. It was messed up and I wasn’t supposed to be working but I figured I’d gut it out and do it. I was all furiously mad at my boss for being such a dick and such an idiot. I thought about it and realized that from a safety standpoint, it wasn’t really a good idea, and the safety buck stops with me.

So I could either do something dumb, and spend hours and hours being furiously angry at my boss, or I could call him back and tell him I wasn’t going to do it. The second possibility was pretty scary but frankly I’m sick of being angry. I don’t feel like risking a heart attack so I called him and left a message explaining I had changed my mind and why.

He called me back, sans his usual phony I’m-your-buddy act and was pretty pissed. He tried to frame it like I wasn’t ready to work and it was going to cost me a day’s pay. I don’t have a union contract and he can do largely what he wants, so I didn’t argue. The important thing is I did not do something that was really going to piss me off and was unsafe.

I suppose for normal people this all sounds pretty stupid. The concept is simple. There is a great book called “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty” which talks all about how to deal with manipulative pressure. The trouble is manipulative people usually have a lot of moves in their pocket. The first thing my boss did was turn off his cell phone. He had the answer he wanted and he didn’t want to hear anything different so he was ignoring me. (Ignoring is a big manipulative tactic, not covered in the book.) He didn’t call me back until I called a coworker and told him I didn’t want to do it. Then he gets angry at me- also manipulative, also not covered in the book. (I’m just realizing there are significant things the book doesn’t cover, so maybe it’s not that great. Still it’s the only thing like it and a great starting point.)

I am terrified of upsetting people. This is an alcoholic family thing, where the children are responsible for the unstable and easily upset parents. Also if you’re low status lots of people can hurt you so you make a point of not pissing anybody off.

My boss was inconvenienced; he’s not losing any business or money. My coworker was inconvenienced; he has to work longer and get home later, but that’s all. I have the right of saying no sometimes, but I can’t do it too often. Still, I think I did the right thing.

Most of “game”, as far as I can tell, is just asserting yourself in one way or another. Easy to talk about, hard to do, for a lot of us anyway.

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7 Responses to Standing Up For Yourself

  1. sestamibi says:

    I remember that movie–“The Pride of Jesse Hallam” with Johnny Cash and Brenda Vaccaro, back around 1978 or so.

  2. virginat50 says:

    I have the same problem with not wanting to upset people. Even online with anonymous strangers, I’m way too polite to people who don’t deserve it.

  3. krauserpua says:

    Good play. If you let people value-take, they’ll keep chipping away at you until nothing is left. Stand up to them early and firmly.

  4. jake says:

    I think I know what you do for a living, do I get a prize?

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