Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Post 51: Get Back in the Pen!

Hi guys,

This post is all about going against the grain (in a different way this time - C). What happens when you don’t follow the herd? Commonly, people will try to make you feel bad for it, whether it’s overtly or covertly.

As I did last week, I want to begin with a personal story so allow me to wax lyrical for a moment. Recently, I was describing my blog and my own weight-loss journey to a new acquaintance and when the word “paleo” came up it was met with a roar of mocking laughter. Then when the phrase “gluten-free” came up: another one. This was followed by the comment: “I didn’t think people like you actually existed!”.

Let’s read into that for a second and recognise the frame that pushed behind those words: “you’re a fool, everyone knows it’s eat less, exercise more, blah, blah blah…”.

What’s overlooked from their perspective is that I practice what I preach; my statements are backed by my own results and my own lying eyes. The funny thing is that comments like these are usually prefaced with “I might need your services!”. It’s the classic first hand vs second hand experience problem.

Over your own journey you are bound to meet these people. People who will desperately try and throw a spanner in the works, for a number of reasons. Today I want to explore where this comes from and why people do it, and give you some methods to overcome these tests.

Because that’s what they really are: tests. The person is pushing at your castle walls to see whether they’re made of stone and are sturdy, or made of hay and will fall at the first hurdle. You can see then that the worst thing to do would be to apologise, backtrack, and try to excuse yourself.

I’ve spoken about becoming a one-man-brand before. At that point, you really know your stuff and other people trust your actions. They may not follow suit, but they know that their attempts to drag you back into the pen will fail. Are you simply going to give up on your efforts and shuffle back to the herd with your tail between your legs, or do you have the balls to flip a middle finger to those who would rather that you failed?

Here’s the bright side, however, and focus on this. People don’t give tests hoping that you fail; they want you to pass! Why would your friends/family want you to back down therefore reducing their respect for you in the long term, just for the short term validating ego boost of winning an argument?

So far in this post I’ve spoken about “the pen”, which represents the status quo and a rejection of experimentation as morally bad.

Once you’ve differentiated yourself, you’re sub-communicating that someone else, or another group of people, must be wrong. It’s essential that everyone believes themselves to be rational and reasonable, otherwise you would be considered insane (and if you were insane and considered yourself insane, that would be a very sane thing to do… - C).

So when people attack you, or try to shame you, they’re selfishly telling you to “get back in the pen so I don’t feel scared that I’m wrong”.

Not only are they feeling scared that they may be wrong, they feel threatened by the possible guilt that their own family and friends suffered when there was an effective alternative. They’re terrified that they didn’t do everything they could of to help those people, which makes them appear uncaring to themselves. Often times when someone verbally attacks someone else it is actually because they are attacking the dark place inside themselves which they wish was not there.

So to tie everything up in a neat little package: it’s an intense and reactive defense mechanism which is apparent in the “woe-is-me” mindset.

The attacker’s logical world must remain as it was, because if something stirred then it would break the illusion that they have no control over their problems. If that happened, they would cease to be reasonable and rational. They would have a solvable problem which they chose not to solve, thus leaving money on the table. As I said above, these comments usually come from an internal inadequacy and a feeling of hopelessness.

So how do we deal with these comments? First, I should say, when someone makes a comment that you don’t like, it’s not an opportunity to counter-attack. Even if you’re articulate and cutting, you’ve still fallen into their frame by reacting. Furthermore, trying to convince them otherwise is counter-productive; the only person who can convince someone of something is themselves. Obviously, forcefully exposing your friends and family’s weaknesses is not a good way to maintain strong relationships.

Next I should point out that I didn’t personally come up with these two methods, but they are tried and tested, and incredibly useful.

The first is to simply be non-reactive; it’s as simple as a shrug of the shoulders combined with “I suppose so”. You acknowledge the person’s distaste, but convey a tone which says “but I refuse to go on using the frame you’ve presented”. If you’re going to discuss things, it should be from a place of neutrality. Don’t feel like you have to justify yourself to anyone. As always, let your results do the talking for you. If you start to qualify then you’re immediately falling into their trap and implying that what you’re doing is wrong.

Agree and amplify is the second method, and involves taking their suggestion to a ridiculous level. It reframes their comment as silly: a ridiculous statement/question deserves a ridiculous answer! I admit, it could come across as mean-spirited and sarcastic, so make sure you combine it with a cheeky grin so you’re not being a complete arse. You might say something like “you’re absolutely right. I live in a field, and smoke weed all day! I’m the typical hippy!”. Use this tactic sparingly.

Here’s this week’s takeaways;
  1. Mainly be non-reactive but sprinkle in some agree and amplify
  2. After the fact, try and work out where people are coming from; see it from their point of view as well. As annoying as it may be, you might have been obnoxious yourself.
  3. On the whole, stick to your guns and make reasoned choices. If it doesn’t go well, have the humility to say that you were wrong.

Until next time,

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