Friday, 25 January 2013

The urge to soothe

There are people who like to calm things down, and people who like to stir things up. I’ve always had the urge to calm things down; too much tumult and uproar badly unsettles me.

As soon as other people start arguing and squaring up, my immediate impulse is to lower the temperature and smooth the ruffled feathers. I don’t find displays of aggression at all attractive, I find them ugly and intimidating.

But an awful lot of people delight in stirring things up, causing quarrels and bad feeling where previously there was none. They like nothing better than to nudge some placid, gentle soul into a burst of ill-temper and belligerence, and then enjoy the commotion they’ve caused.

I remember one workmate who was an expert stirrer. He knew everyone’s weak points and would provoke one person after another until the whole place was a frenzy of hurt feelings, resentments and reckless insults. He visibly smirked and tittered as his victims rose to the bait. A calm, relaxed atmosphere was like a red rag to a bull.

I’m totally the opposite. When people are laying into each other, I’m straightaway looking for the common ground, looking for a way of reconciling them. I want them to live and let live, to agree to disagree, to settle their differences. I’ll seek out the fire extinguisher rather than fanning the flames. I’ll build bridges rather than blowing them up.*

Some people say my soothing-tendency is a cop-out, that I’m just avoiding argument, concealing my real opinions, repressing my emotions. I don’t think so. If I have strong views I’ll express them. If I disagree with someone I’ll say so. But I won’t let a simple clash of views flare into a claws-out catfight if I can possibly help it. I’d much rather be the oblivious cat lazing on the windowsill.

* And I’ll happily mix metaphors if necessary

25 comments:

Bijoux said...

I'm with you. People who create drama like that are unhappy sorts who just want everyone around them to share in their misery.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Yes, I imagine there's some inner bitterness they want to transfer to other people.

Liz said...

Sometimes I read books or see something on television and I am amazed that there are such horrid people around. I don't know people like that. Do I live a sheltered life?

Secret Agent Woman said...

This is yet another thing that completely depends on the situation for me. I don't like meaningless drama - it's silly and a waste of time. But if there is a problem, better to talk about it (even argue about it) than let it fester. And if someone is saying something in a family situation that I know to be utter BS, I'm likely to call them on it. My mother, for instance, likes to talk about her own completely lack of responsibility for the abuse she turned a blind eye to. I am somehow never able to let that pass.

Secret Agent Woman said...

*complete

Aritul said...

I'm with you. I prefer harmony and cooperation. When people start to fight, I either try to calm them down or leave. Not surprisingly, I'm not good at getting upset even when I am in the right. I just don't like arguments or contention.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

I love that you mix metaphors! LOL!

I'm with you. I hate aggression and hate it when people can't resist stirring. They really are one of the worst forms of bully. They are sadists. To say you should be more like them is insulting, and that's what they're suggesting when they say you're hiding your true feelings.

Nick said...

Liz: Yes, you lead a sheltered life. Sit back and enjoy it!

Agent: I'm with you, I also object to meaningless drama but it's important to discuss genuine grievances. Preferably in a way that's rational and not overheated.

I think it's still common for women to deny responsibility for abusive men. Good for you tackling your mother on it.

Wisewebwoman said...

I grew up in a household that was highly antagonistic so avoid angry conflict wherever.

However not all conflict is angry and I will not be silent when racism, misogyny and prejudice are tossed around willy-nilly. But I find I don't raise my voice and expect others not to.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Aritul: Calm them down or leave is my own approach. Having to listen to people going at each other hammer and tongs is something I try to avoid.

Jay: Sadists indeed. What they're really suggesting is that I should also be ranting and raving and upsetting everyone else.

Nick said...

www: Absolutely, I wouldn't stay silent on those issues either. But as you say, it's possible to object in a measured way without coming on like a freight train.

And my parents' household was also a hotbed of whipped-up antagonism. It was good to get away from it.

Suburbia said...

I'd like to think I'd stay calm....

Baino said...

My best friend is a stirrer. A total protaganist who knows how to piss people off. I don't know why he does it. I'm the ying to his yang, the calming influence would you believe. It's not a cop out, it's all about keeping the peace. I don't mind a good argument but it doesn't have to become a fist fight.

Nick said...

Suburbia: But sometimes you get pulled in, despite yourself?

Baino: No, not a cop-out at all, it's keeping the peace as you say. Exactly, a sensible argument needn't escalate into something destructive unless there's malice involved.

speccy said...

I'm generally looking for the calm, but there are no go areas- ideas or people that make me wildly irate, and then I struggle. It's so hard to see an alternate point of view when there's red mist in front of your face...

Nick said...

Speccy: I know, hard to stay calm when boiling anger prevails. Hard to temporarily bottle it up and say something conciliatory. I can say the most idiotic things when I'm fuming mad.

John Gray said...

Generally I am a peacemaker but occasionally I do love throwing a verbal grenade into a situation to see what will happen.
Perhaps that only append when I am bored

Rummuser said...

I prefer being totally uninvolved. In fact I generally remove myself from the scene whenever any 'situation' develops.

Nick said...

John: You mischief-maker you! Have to admit though that I've done the same now and again to liven things up.

Ramana: It must be difficult though if you feel very strongly about the subject being discussed.

Roses said...

I grew up a placater. Make everything nice.

And then I realised that sometimes having a barmy is a good way to clear the air, that conflict doesn't need to be destruction. Sometimes, an argument can clear the dead wood from the tree of a relationship.

So, I don't make everything nice anymore. Removed a lot of responsibility from my shoulders. I let other people sort out their problems and when their shouting gets to me, I go off and do something else.

Nick said...

Roses: I agree, sometimes a spontaneous outburst is what's needed to clear the air. What I object to is deliberate stirring and phoney rages designed only to provoke other people.

And yes, best to leave other people to argue the toss when you have no obligation to sort things out.

Grannymar said...

I know several people who seem to make a way of life out of deliberating stirring the pot to provoke the people around them. The problem is theirs, so I step back and walk away.

Nick said...

Grannymar: A wise policy. Why indulge their mischief and let them churn you up?

Val said...

Generally I'll say my piece if it's something I feel strongly about, but if it looks like it's gonna turn nasty, then out of there. I like peace and quiet.

I don't like stirrers. I was brought up by one. One per lifetime is enough.

Nick said...

Val: I was also brought up by a stirrer, so I aim not to behave in the same way. The irony is that he always said he liked peace and quiet!