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