Yesterday I was setting up to run a corporate workshop when a cocky, bankery looking investment manager something-or-other walked in to help me work out the AV setup in the very swish boardroom.
After a while, when it became clear he also couldn’t work out how to get it working,
he started to become rapidly less friendly as I could see his frustration rising.
“What did you press?” he questioned me with barely disguised scorn.
I know how to connect a computer to a projector, I’d done nothing out of the ordinary, it just wasn’t working. I stood there watching as he became more and more frustrated, assuming he was worrying on my behalf since the workshop was now starting in 10 minutes.
I laughed and joked about something to try and lighten the mood.
He gave me nothing, completely blanked me.
I suggested, jokingly (although sort of not!) that I could jump on the boardroom table and plug my USB directly into the ceiling projector instead.
He looked at me with condescending eyes and said “No, you can’t, because I have a meeting in here straight after your workshop and I need it working.”
The narkiness towards me became clear – he thought that this dumb mindfulness blonde had shown up and messed up the technology –
he wasn’t there to help me, he was there to make sure I didn’t mess things up for him.
I noticed my heart beating a bit faster – both in anxiety and anger.
How many cocky men have I had underestimate me,
assume I don’t understand tech, mansplain me, blame random tech issues on the nearest female rather than on the tech itself.
In the past I know I would have reacted one of two ways. Option 1 –
I would have reacted to my anxiety and gone into people pleasing mode to try and get him to like me.
Option 2 – I would have been overcome with righteous feminist anger and been narky right back at him.
Neither options professional, nor effective when dealing with a fired up ego.
Instead I anchored my attention in the sensations of stress fluttering in my chest, observed the judgements flying about in my mind, then turned back to him and observed him calmly. He was totally caught up in his own flurry of thoughts, being run by his emotions and subtly lashing out.
It was such a contrast, both of us triggered, but me using mindfulness to manage my emotional reaction, and him being flung around by his.
I remember very well what it was like to be reactive to tiny things, being taken over by ego, then having to play nice once I’d cooled down to make up for the accidental narkiness guilt.
I hoped he’d show up to the mindfulness workshop.
Eventually he went and got another guy who also couldn’t work it out, after some time they restarted the boardroom computer. Problem solved.
The bankery guy huffed out of the room only to return for my mindfulness workshop 10 minutes later.
He seemed to have calmed right down, even smiled a bit, answered some of the questions I asked the group, in between making notes (albeit probably about his next meeting, not the workshop).
Just a regular guy, having not (yet!) been taught the skills manage trigger emotions.
Like basically all of us, really.
One of my favourite things about mindfulness is that we can train ourselves to be a lot less judgemental of others.
Non-judgement doesn’t mean having no judgements or getting walked over. It just means noticing our habitual judgements and letting them go in favour of a wiser, more effective response.
Even when they judgee in question is being a total knob.