“I didn’t know what else to do.”

When meanness is the only option
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on August 16, 2016
 

We’ve all said it.

We were in a pinch when we didn’t like what someone was doing.  We became uncomfortable, so we lashed out.

We got mean with a comment, dirty look or hanging up on someone.

Then, someone called us out for being cruel, and we said, “I didn’t know what else to do.”

“I didn’t know what else to do” is the last refuge of scoundrels.

There are always alternatives.

This go-to line is manipulative.  It implies a false lack of options and choice. More, it deflects responsibility for the harm we’ve caused.

“I didn’t know what else to do” doesn’t save us.  It convicts us of meanness and exposes our laziness and lack of creativity.

People have screamed at us, defamed our names, slammed the phone in our ears, taken advantage of our space and belongings and time.  Yet, the frustrating behavior of others challenges us to reach for our highest selves.

“I didn’t know what else to do” will not do, not for spiritual beings.

There are other things to say

  1. Say nothing.

When you think you don’t know what to do, do nothing.  Not every action merits a response particularly when you remember to take nothing personally and to detach from ego.

Observe the situation, identify how and why your meanness is being triggered, know thyself and resolve to never do the same.

2. Repair the tangle by asking for help.

Research has actually demonstrated when people do you favors, they’ll actually like you more.  It’s called the Benjamin Franklin Effect.

When your monster starts to come out, say, “I need you to help me figure out how to respond to this.”

Or, just ask for help. Say, “I don’t want to have any static with you because I really need your help.”  Then, ask for anything: advice, a ride, $5 or a hand carrying some boxes.

Return the favor.  You’ll like them more, too. The flip side of the Benjamin Franklin Effect is we wind up hating people we’ve harmed.

It’s impossible to be our highest selves in a state of hate.

3. Ask yourself, “What is the most loving way to respond?”

Before issuing any response, check it.  Are you motivated by love or by ego maintenance?

If a loving response doesn’t come to you, just say, “I love you.”

It might be the best option of all.

 

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