Give in or Stand Up?
You don’t have to be Neville Chamberlain (the failed British Prime Minister who tried to appease Hitler) for this Churchill quote to apply to you. Nor do I. All we have to do make the mistake of thinking that if we give in to aggressive behavior it will eventually cease.
“If I just give the kid what he wants, he’ll stop whining.”
“If my feet don’t break these eggshells, she won’t get upset.”
“If I work hard enough to turn in the work perfectly every time, my boss won’t embarrass me again.”
Of course these tactics never work, and here’s why: passively trying to control another’s behavior by appeasing them is just as manipulative as aggressively trying to get what you want. Both are efforts at controlling another person. Doing it the passive way is actually worse, however, because when we’re passive we think we’re the more righteous person. And we love to complain about the aggressor to others, because we believe they’ll think we’re righteous as well.
If we actually want to change a pattern, we have to stop trying to change anyone else’s part of that pattern, and non-reactively change our own:
“No, I will not change my mind about the candy (or the curfew); you chose not to do your chores and this is the consequence.”
“I hate that you’re having a bad day, honey. Would you like to talk about it? Or do you just need some space for a while?”
“I thank you for your feedback, sir, it does actually help me improve. Next time I finish a project, I would like to set a private meeting with you to go over it.”
Who knows? Standing up while staying cool might even stop the next Hitler.