Fight, Flight, or…Something Else

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Here’s how to avoid a barroom brawl (or getting walked all over) from Jaunty’s Head Instructor, Craig Gibbons.

About a year ago, I was with some Jaunty students at a bar for one of our community get-togethers. I had my back against the bar as I sat on a barstool talking to a pair of students. The topic turned to something I was passionate about, and I became animated while I talked to them. We all became very immersed in our conversation, putting blinders on to what was happening around us. Suddenly, our conversational flow was broken.


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“Hey!” the woman to my right grumbled. “Can you move away from me?! You keep nudging me with your arm.” I distinctly remember her stabbing tone. She seemed to expect a confrontation. I had a few options of where to go from there.

As a naturally passive person, my first response would have been something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll move away from you,” while being small, quiet and submissive. But what happens if I don’t stand up up for myself and let someone walk all over me? It could become a habit, hurt my self-esteem and transfer to other relationships. Basically, even if what I was doing wasn’t ill-intentioned and she was being a jerk, by acting passively, I would have taken responsibility for the woman’s feelings.

Another option would have been for me to fight fire with fire. “Why don’t you move?!” I could have snapped back. But that would have exacerbated the issue. A fight in front of my students and a new enemy were not what I was looking for.


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But there’s actually a third option beyond fight or flight. Humor. The woman spurted aggressive words at me and I joked with her. After taking a second to process what she was saying and the situation, I looked at her and said something about getting a yardstick from the bartender to make sure we were the appropriate distance from each other. I said it in a light and playful tone. You could say it was a Jaunty tone.

The lady seemed shocked by my unexpected tone. Then she let out a huge laugh of silliness and relief. After that, I went straight into friendly conversation with her. I asked her what she and the man she was with were up to, and we had an amicable conversation for the next minute or so. After that, I scooted over to give her more room, and returned to conversation with my students.

I love the idea of creating the results you want by leading with your mindset. Had I fallen into the mindset that this woman wanted a confrontation, I probably would have done the passive thing and had a negative interaction with her. But since I intentionally responded to her in a positive way, she reacted positively, and that opened the door to a good conversation with her. She was able to get what she wanted, and I was able to get what I wanted. Win win.


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