When it comes to dealing with difficult people, I wouldn't say that I wrote the book but I certainly could be the subject of one. It'd be nice to have the corner on the market; I'd probably have a much easier go of things as the sheer novelty of my existence would ensure some manner of subsidy on the carnival circuit and the Dr. Phil show.
But the reality is that there is no shortage of difficult types in this world. They may be variously known as insensitive, hard-headed, or antisocial (which is shrink speak for "Adam Henry" which is police-speak for…well, you know). By any name, their "no knock" knack for insinuating themselves into our lives is considerable, particularly when factored against the gauntlet of electronic ramparts and "No Trespassing" signs routinely deployed against them.
Given such realities, what hope does one have to avoid these stinkwads while away from home and in the real world? And outside of halfway homes, asylums, and kindergartens, perhaps no environment promotes the virulent intermingling of disparate personalities so readily as the workplace. If it doesn't quite reach the level of the ACLU's attempts at shoehorning institutionalized members of the Black Guerilla Family and Eme together, it's at least as arbitrary in its assumptions that "we all just get along."
Recently, I found myself dealing with an individual who I've suspected of harboring some animosity against me for me for some time now. And that's fine—it's not like he's lacking for company in that department. All the same, I would have hoped that we could conduct our lives along unacknowledged parallel paths. You know, that "you do your thing, I'll do mine, and we'll share an unspoken but enduring sense of being mutually unimpressed" thing. But it wasn't to be.
He first came on my radar when he was momentarily stationed at a location where I was anticipated. A friend of mine visited and asked for me only to be brushed off in a decidedly curt manner. Not only did I take exception to the individual's lack of ambassadorship in his role at the time, but I certainly wouldn't have been rude to any of his visitors under the same circs.
Shortly thereafter and during the same event, this same individual and I were formally introduced to one another by a common acquaintance at which time he fairly radiated hostility toward me. A quick sniff-check of the ol' pits revealed nothing of an olfactory offensive nature, so I figured, whatever. Again, to each his own.
Indeed, I refrained from any comment until much later when, during a conference call, he made a point of loudly banging pans and dishes with the enthusiasm of a Foley soundman—really—while I was speaking until I called him on it (somebody's in the kitchen with Dinah—and he's a dick).
A target-rich environment of prospective causes for this passive-aggressive campaign invited my speculation: Resentment...jealously...the possibility that he'd been poisoned against me by another (In which case it would be more fair to characterize his show of solidarity with the previous offender as misplaced than it was for me to endure it). Strong intuitions remain, but as of yet none have been nailed down.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule or formula in dealing with such problems in their formative states, there are a variety of time-tested options available. At one time my "go-to" choice was to address the perceived problem right away. This had the benefit of removing any ambiguity on the matter and sometimes nipped the problem in the bud but also carried the risk of coming across as precipitous and putting oneself in the role of the bad guy. Not good.
Thankfully, the missus has taught me a thing or two about patience and making damn sure that your ducks are in a row before inflicting needless drama. With this in mind I refrained from challenging the person in question, preferring to work in elliptical orbits of him and being a model of civility.
Alas, my non-confrontational manner apparently made the man comfortable enough to hit me up to work on a collaborative project. With my assent, a date and time to speak by phone was agreed upon and I adjusted my evening calendar to await his call.
During non-work hours.
During "Swamp People."
During me time.
The call didn't come.
A day or two later he resurrected the matter and asked for another opportunity. I gave him another time window. I'm generous that way.
But like U2's last tour, this, too, came and went without comment.
By the third time he inquired about another day and time I found myself wondering: Just what was it about this guy's email campaign that was being executed with the retaliatory wait time of a TSA agent? Particularly as he'd been the one to initiate the dialogue?
Laying my cards on the table via email, I candidly expressed my waning enthusiasm for the project and my reasons for it.
His reply? "Get over yourself," as well as a dig at my apparently intimidating "Mensa vocabulary."
As a preemptive strike, it works (hey, give the nimrod credit where it's due). Because, save for his lexiconal limitations, the same could be said of him but with the added dimension of justification. For one, a quick check of the "TMI" files (aka, my blogs) reveal all manner of acknowledged insecurities on my part, so there isn't a whole lot in the way of things for me to get over about myself. For another, he apparently expects me to just accept his 1) disrespecting my time, 2) subjugating myself to his contemptuous nature, and 3) subordinating my ego to his. As if.
Now all of this is as pertinent to the point I am making as it is to my employment.
As cops, we occasionally show up in uniformed response to some disturbance call to act as arbiters. We listen to the gripes of capable dissemblers, evaluate their relative merits, weigh the intransigencies or flexibilities of their personalities, formulate some practical response to the proceedings, then take action that may entail additional resources, such as CNT, EMS, or the JLA. When our hand is forced, one or more parties may accompany us to the hoosegow.
If it isn't always easily accomplished, it is at least done fairly routinely thanks in no small part to an absence of emotional clouding on our part. Because unless we're working K-9, we've no dog in the fight and little cause to personalize even the epithets occasionally tossed our way from some sublimating party.
It is when we are party to the friction that our perspectives can get colored. Caught up in the immediacy of the moment, one may experience difficulty recognizing out who's who in the "good cop, bad cop" equation. At such times we may have to wait for the moment to pass before reflection lends itself to more objective appraisals and the epiphanies that follow. When these ensuing revelations reveal to me any wrongs I've afflicted, I not only acknowledge the fact but flagellate myself for it. Apologies are a given.
But then there are those times when prayers, reflection, and the Psychic Friends Network can lead you to but one inescapable conclusion: That in this particular instance it was simply a matter of not putting up with another's bullshit.
Even with this guy I waited until there was little doubt as to the legitimacy of my grievances against him and that there'd been an absence of any provocational behavior on my part (save for employing one too many polysyllabic words for his tastes).
Despite my record, I can't tell you how to deal with the inevitable fallout once things have come to a head. Outside of ass-kickings favored by others—when the smarts are wanting, fists are tightening--there is no "one size fits all" remedy, particularly when they're the ones firing the first shot. But given their constitutions, I figure most cops know better than to just roll over and play dead.
There are, however, some good ground rules to follow.
First, you could do a lot worse than adhere to that wisdom imparted by that renowned 20th century "Road House" philosopher James Dalton: "Be nice until it's time not to be nice." Don't go out of your way to provoke the person in the first place. If you intuitively don't like or trust them, let them be. That their true character will be revealed in due time is an inevitability. Just make sure that if it comes down to a polygraph as far as who promotes ill will toward the other in the first place, you'll kick their ass to the curb.
When your suspicions become validated through their actions, then call them on their BS. Just make sure it's not an inadvertent and one-time mistake on their part. Predictably defensive responses will not only confirm your suspicions, but may even afford you insight as to a potential source of resentment. If you're in the habit of delegating spankings, bring the problem to a supervisor's attention. Whatever you do, don't put up with it as your tolerance will only engender more of the same.
Find profit in the experience. Just because your irritant may have a stultifying lack of imagination doesn't mean you have to. File this shared experience away as a life lesson. Use it as a cautionary parable for others. Maybe even write a blog. (Disclaimer: This has its own risks. You may alienate still others. Your boss may shit a brick.)
Implicit in all this is the friendly reminder that you don't have to put up with their crap.
From the moment we're conceived, we run the risk of being miscarried, aborted, or proven to be defective in some manner, and the litany of life's little challenges and surprises that follow that first slap on the ass can be aggravating enough without being precipitated at still additional hands. Such are the reasons I am increasingly convinced that it's all the more important to enjoy whatever you can of this existence, while you can. And if that means putting life's occasional jerks in check, so be it.
Finally, know that if you've the backbone, character, and intellectual fortitude to stand by your guns when you know you're in the right, you can always find a haven elsewhere. I have. Repeatedly. And it's always worked out for the best.
It goes without saying—but as my detractor would attest, I am a wordy bastard and will so indulge the privilege—that all this is no less applicable to those that I may aggrieve. Should I prove needlessly nasty to someone, then I hope they call me on it.
As far as this latest specimen, he has his talents. All men do, if only for pissing off others. From my vantage point, my acquaintance is like that moron in the infommercial who irrigates his ear with the pressurized attack of a 20,000 lb. Titanian Auger Drill Bit and yells "OW!!!" in surprise: He makes me feel better about myself.
Who knows. Perhaps he's keeping tabs and documenting any transgressions I've committed against his person.
After all, I have his against mine.