Fight, Flight, or…Something Else


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.


“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.


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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