Saturday, December 16, 2006

On "backing down"

Let's say you are in line to use the ATM or get a cup at your local convenience store and some dude decides that his time is End of the linemore valuable than yours: he steps in front of you in the line. What do you do? One response, and an understandable one, may be to tell the perpetrator where he can go. Let's walk through consequences here:

  1. You tell him off, he ignores you. It escalates into something physical and someone gets hurt.

  2. You tell him off, he apologizes and slinks to the back of the line like a good boy.

  3. You tell him off and he shoots you, thereby ruining your week.

If we leave your fantastic fighting skills and ten world bareknuckle combat championships out of the picture for a minute. In all of these cases, someone has lost "face." If you allow the infraction (by ignoring him), it may burn you up so much that it's all you talk about for the next two weeks. On the other hand, if you tell him off, you have raised the ante to where he is forced to respond or lose face. You have actually taken a situation up a notch when it wasn't necessary.

My advice is to leave it alone. Leave the escalation to someone else. We want to avoid, and if necessary, finish up situations, not cause them. We have an ethical obligation, with the great potential for harm in our hands and feet to restrain ourselves, and control our emotions. Your approach may be different, but I also look upon the use of potentially lethal force as a lose-lose situation, and I hate to lose!


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