My last post mentioned the tendency among many people I know to search for chinks in my armor. I guess these people have their reasons for wanting me to be less intelligent, or less educated, or less cool, but so far, their attempts have fallen flat. This, related, post is about what to do when your armor does have chinks. My advice for people with chinked armor is not to hide from it. In the battles we face in our daily lives, there are countless opportunities for interacting with others in positive or negative ways. For example, my dear friend, Charlie, taught me a valuable lesson a few years ago. Charlie and I have many things in common, including our intolerance for mean people and our love of all things related to rock and roll music. We were driving someplace together one day when a mean, inconsiderate driver cut us off in traffic, then had the audacity to blow the horn at us, yell, and give us the one finger salute. Instead of responding in kind, Charlie smiled, turned up the music, and kept on driving us to where we were going. I asked him why he didn’t “defend himself” against this bully and he explained that he, and all of us, have the power to decide how we are going to react to negative events. We can get angry, retaliate, etc. or we can “crank up the volume” and “keep on trucking.” This is excellent advice! Therefore, when one has had the chinks in the armor exposed, one can react by getting mad, getting even, or by accepting this weakness and moving on. And, a little armor chink repair kit would probably be a good idea too!
Repairing chinks in one’s armor is more difficult than deflecting the chink in the first place. As with any fight or conflict, avoiding the confrontation is rule 1. Charlie’s innate reaction of avoidance minimizes chinks. But some engagements are not as random, and one off, as a road rage incident. Often, the chinking occurs over time with friends, family, and co-workers. Confronting it head on at some point, as in “Why are you always criticizing me…?” may be uncomfortable, but calling attention to the improper behavior may be the only way, other than leaving the environment or relationship, to find a way to end it. The offender may well say “I didn’t think it would bother you…” and, whether that is really true is not the point. At least, at that stage, they have been put on notice. In a world with many stresses and known mental illness issues, this is clearly not something always easily remedied by targeted individuals. Somewhat different from bullying of perceived “weaklings,” the idea of chinking at the armor is usually aimed at people who are high performers. If the high performer notices it, the chinking has succeeded as a distraction. It is not, however, productive, but rather counter productive and poisons both the environment and relationship. It can come down to the realization that one of us has to go – though the objective should be to put aside the petty jealousy and work toward the common good, whatever that may be. If change isn’t forthcoming, however, as with the example I used of the tall poppy lawyer, it would seem that opting out may be the only avenue.