June 23, 2009

In your face

My heart pounded, my hands shook. As my fingers pressed the call button, the flip-flops in my belly turned into rolling ocean waves.


I will not cry, I will not cry... "Ummm... hi? It's Megan. I just... I'm sorry to call, I was just wondering if you had to leave early today? It's just that... well, the house doesn't look... I'm not trying to be mean, it just seems like... ummm... maybe you didn't finish?"

That's right! I had a near-panic attack because (drum roll, please) I had to call and ask my cleaning lady to come finish a shoddy job. Drama! Disaster! Life-altering confrontation!

Or, if you look at it another way, totally no big deal and completely justified. I pay her, right? She's a nice lady, we get along well, but if the job's not getting done, it would seem obvious to ask her to fix the problem. It's not that the situation was monumental, it's that I had to bring it up at all.

I do not confront. I was, oh the horror, the girl at the office who cried under pressure. I don't want to cry, it's certainly not something I am proud of-- quite the opposite, actually. I always feel like the World Champion Loser whenever I fall into a case of the wimpies. But I just can't stop myself. It builds up in the back of my throat and just sort of happens.

The worst part is the apologizing. I swear, on more than one occasion (I am very clutzy), I've bumped into a piece of furniture and muttered, "OW! Sorry...". Probably that table was just sitting there, minding its own business and having a nice day of supporting magazines and then I come along and RUIN EVERYTHING.

Because it's all my fault, right? Somehow in my twisty little psyche, everything works its way around to being my fault. My fault the living room isn't clean, my fault Kurt's laundry isn't totally dry (okay, maybe that was my fault, but everyone knows it's better to air-dry jeans, right? RIGHT?), my fault the lady at the checkout rolls her eyes when I offer up a stack of coupons... gee, sorry for trying to save money legitimately in a way that is part of your job. My bad.

I'm also an expert at avoiding confrontation and then spending hours, days, afterwards thinking of totally awesome, biting and sarcastic things I could have said. If I had a chance to write a script before every run-in, I'd be famous! (Famous for being a bitch, but better that than a doormat, I suppose.)

After I stumbled out an explanation to my housekeeper, she calmly said, "No, don't apologize. I run my own business and I need to know these things to keep my customers. I'll come back this afternoon and fix things up, okay?"

Totally reasonable. That's the part that always gets me, that so many people in the face of every day confrontation are totally reasonable. It's not a big deal to them, so why do I let it be a big deal to me? It's a matter of esteem-building, I suppose. All sorts of psychological mumbo-jumbo should come into play. Stuart Smalley had it all right with his daily affirmations-- "I'm a good person and, gosh darnit, people like me!".

Really, I think the best solution for the problem is just practice. I need to confront MORE. You, over there! You just walked right in front of me and let the door close in my face as I stand here carrying two children. Didn't your mother teach you any manners? Hey, dude, thanks for delivering my Chinese food, but save your nasty look for someone else, okay? You had to drive two blocks to get here and I'm not tipping more than a buck.

And you! You, over there in your smug horizontal solidity. Stop trying to break my toes! You aren't the only table in town and I could have you on a one-way trip to Goodwill in a second. I'm NOT sorry!

Gee... I feel better already. Next time you see me, watch out! I might just be (crying and shaking) in your face.

(Next post will be about the shift from pre-confrontational anxiety to post-confrontational regret. But hey! Then I can bring "I'm sorry" back in a legitimate context, yay!)


Lea said...

I am so the same way! My voice shakes, and I end up looking like a total idiot. I would love to be one of those eloquent confronters whose brain doesn't die in the middle of speaking due to anxiety, so that I could actually look somewhat intelligent in the process and make a valid point. Good job for calling her back! It sounds like it was totally worth it.

Alison said...

I totally agree that confrontations are so hard and I often avoid them. But I also agree that they can get easier with practice, I tended to have a lot of conflicts in my old job and I did get a little better at it. Be ruthless! :)

Deb said...

I'm here to tell ya it gets easier with age! So there IS some benefit to getting old...haha. I used to be such a doormat. When those hormone levels start nosediving suddenly you can tell it like it is - and it feels good! You go girls...