Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sometimes brave

I'm a strange mixture of extreme cowardice and surprising bravery. A group of youths on a street corner can make me cringe nervously. But I'll take on a ruthless boss who wants to undermine my working conditions.

Any kind of visible aggression makes me very jittery, and that can include angry expressions, threatening postures, gloating laughter, even lads kicking footballs. A huddle of teenage males usually exudes enough aggressive undertones for me to cross the street to avoid them.

In the workplace though I've often challenged managers who want to mess about with my working hours or salary or work routines. If I feel unfairly treated, I'll square up to them. I spent four years as a trade union rep doing the same for my workmates.

I've often been the lone voice in a gathering of diehards, expressing my own heretical opinions whether they like it or not. I'll voice my atheism to a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool believers. I'll tell a roomfull of meat-chompers that I'm a vegetarian. I'll lob my socialism into a bevy of hardline conservatives.

But I can also get absurdly shy at social events. Faced with a sea of unfamiliar faces, I get tongue-tied, my brain freezes, my self-confidence withers, I don't know what to say.

Public speaking is equally scary. I've never given a formal speech or presentation in my life, and I hope I never have to. I'm sure I'd say all the wrong things and seriously embarrass myself.

And in restaurants, like most people, I'm loathe to complain about the food, even if it's virtually inedible. I just valiantly gulp it down or leave it. I don't like to make a fuss or be the centre of attention.

I guess what all this amounts to is that I have a very unpredictable response to danger. Sometimes I flee, sometimes I walk straight into it. And sometimes I don't even notice it, I just do what I have to do.


  1. I hate to complain in a restaurant too. Makes me feel guilty! Which I know is absurd. Public speaking where I have something prepared I'm fine with. But talking with people on a normal day to day level and I go to pieces.

  2. Liz: I know, why do we all feel uncomfortable about sending back inferior food? Especially when we're paying triple or quadruple the cost of a home-cooked meal.

    Talking to people on a normal everyday level can be surprisingly awkward sometimes.

  3. I don't mind talking to strangers or speaking in public. What I don't like is confrontation, especially when you know it won't do a damn bit of good!

  4. Bijoux: I shy away from confrontation if it's over something unimportant. But if it's something that really matters to me, I'm capable of being very forthright, even if there's little prospect of getting what I want.

  5. I've no bother talking to strangers - You, Nick, were once a stranger to me and I didn't come home minus a head or limbs.

    I have spoken publicly over the years, but I am more comfortable with a topic I really believe in, or am passionate about.

    But, on these dark nights, you will not see sight nor sign of me near any grouping with flags.

  6. Grannymar: He he!

    Yes, I'm much more confident when I'm talking about something I'm passionate about or know a lot about. Then usually someone has to shut me up!

  7. I think physical danger and emotional danger are entirely different. I am also afraid when physically threatened. I'm not all that strong, and I think it would be easy for someone to hurt me. I've had a few boyfriends who seem to be absolutely unafraid in the same situations, but they would be far better able to defend themselves.

    But for the rest of it, I think most of us are variable and it just depends on what you feel passionate or confidant about. I am genrally fine in social situations or standing up for myself in a work situation. I rarely complain in restaurants, but it's not because I'm afraid, it's because I don't wwant to be an ass. If there was a real problem (beyond me just not liking the food), like something was undercooked or they'd put bacon on it when I'd ask them not to, I'd speak up but politely.

  8. (Also, there's a practical reason for not making a fuss in a restaurant - they'll spit in your food if you piss them off.)

  9. We're all a rather odd mix, aren't we. I'll speak up for bad service but always kindly first, often people are just having a bad day. As to rotten food, I'll immediately ask for correction, but nicely as well and never blame wait staff.
    I've spoken a lot publicly and it gets easier. Someone once said to me (which helped a pile) that everyone will have forgotten what you said 5 minutes after they leave the hall. LOL. True.
    We need to wear the world like a loose garment and not take ourselves so damn seriously.
    As to perceived physical danger, I'd run for the hills. Or shout "Fire!"

  10. Agent: You're right, feeling passionate or confident about something makes a big difference. Then it's quite easy to speak up. Feeling totally ignorant and about to make a total arse of yourself is somewhat inhibiting!

    Yes, everyone mentions the spitting in your food thing. I wonder how often that really happens?

  11. www: I think you're right about people forgetting what you said five minutes later. They might just remember if you said they were a bunch of nincompoops....

    "We need to wear the world like a loose garment" I like it.

  12. All of us can be brave when we don't think about things too much
    Mind you, the older I get, the more "hobby" I become

  13. Ah but, you see, there IS no bravery without fear.

    People often make this mistake, they think that the brave are those who feel no fear, but it's not true. Easy enough to rush into a burning building if you don't fear the flames, or value your own life, huh? But to rush into a burning building to save someone when you are fully aware of the dangers and terrified to get burned, that is true bravery.

    As such, you are clearly a brave person, when it matters to you enough to overcome your natural inbuilt fears - and that's good sense, in survival terms. Why rush into danger if you don't have to? So long as, when it truly matters, you can pull one out of the hat.

    The not knowing when to rush in and when to hold back - I can identify with that one!!

  14. As a mother of a teenage boy, I'm always surprised when passing a scarey teenage huddle to find that I know most of them by name.

    And they're real nice kids just hanging out with other kids is all.

  15. John: True. It's surprising what we can do when the dangers haven't occurred to us.

    Jay: Indeed, to take a chance even when you know the danger you're walking into, that's true bravery. And yes, you have to prompted by something that's really important to you.

    Macy: I'm sure you're right, they're probably perfectly innocent and civilised. I just get put off by the (probably unintended) aggressive mannerisms.

  16. I've had a number of patients who worked as wait staff, so yes, I think that kind of thing happens more than you'd like to imagine!

  17. I was going to comment but Jay already said it better.

  18. Agent: Eek! That just makes me even less likely to complain....

    Megan: Jay made an excellent point. Conscious bravery knowing all the risks is very different from unthinking impulsiveness.

  19. I suspect that all of us have both instincts of fight or flight programmed into us as instinctive drives and we use one or the other depending on the circumstances. I have experienced both, but I am ashamed to say that more the former than the latter. I have paid the price for such foolishness too.

    I have no problems being assertive where necessary but am rarely aggressive in situations like restaurants or other places where I am a customer. Having been on the receiving end of customer complaints over decades, I know how to handle being on the giving end and usually I am successful in getting my problems resolved without much ado.

    Having been forced to make presentations conduct training sessions due to career requirements, public speaking too comes rather easily, particularly since I simply cannot take myself too seriously!

  20. Ramana: I've also spent many years dealing with customer complaints, so I know how to present my complaints in an effective way - how to be assertive without getting people's backs up.