It can take some serious strength of character to handle a difficult person with compassion, but what can sometimes happen if it’s done well is the total subversion of a tentatively terrible situation. Recognition of The Ego in oneself and then the ability to quieten it must first occur, so that you don’t feel the rush to get back at the person giving you grief. Then, you can depart with satisfaction that you didn’t also lose your shit.
The other day, I attempted to reason with and assist a man (who was being VERY difficult) to help him realise, politely, that he was in the wrong. He had been stationary whilst I began a three point reverse park into a ‘parents with prams’ car space. This elderly man went just a little short of psycho with the assumption that I was a thief, robbing him of his car spot on this Tuesday morning. I ceased moving, blocked three or four cars from passing and buzzed my window down.
Irately, he claimed that the car spot, clearly indicated among a row of signs with a human figure and a stroller, was his. I calmly replied that no, sir, have a look. I gestured to the signs and informed him that these spots were for parents with children in tow. “I”M AN INVALID!!!” he screamed at me, syllabic emphasis made obvious with his British accent, spittle surely raining down his window panel and steering wheel. I signalled to the five or six empty disabled spots further along. Apparently, these weren’t suitable.
Composure retained, I replied again. I told him that he could have the spot despite not being entitled to it and I followed that cordially with the words, “just because you’re an ‘invalid’ doesn’t mean you have to be an arsehole!” I pressed the button to close my window and drove serenely away, releasing the flow of traffic which had been impeded by this comical car park episode.
In front of my four year old, I was content with my dealings of this difficult, self righteous specimen. I allowed him his victory but hopefully stung his stinking attitude with a taste of virtuous honesty. Despite having a strong sense of compassion and empathy, I won’t be walked over for no good reason, nor will I teach my son to bow down to acrimony. When you’re right, you’re right and when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Knowing both sides is fundamental to developing into a “good” person and living a happy life.
I hope that gentlemen’s cup of tea burnt his wretched tongue.