A student writes:
"As to the particular question of strength of personality -- I see it as a gift you give the other person or withhold from him/her. It's your reaction that gives her/him the strength, isn't it?"
I'm sorry. This is interesting. But I don't understand the question, nor do I understand the concept of strength of personality as a gift to give or withhold. Could you clarify what you mean for me a bit?
Mitman writes that there are two kinds of managers -- those who cooperate with employees as in a partnership, and those who compete with their employees by pulling rank (perhaps without being consciously aware that that's counterproductive). Mitman asks "What should we do in this (second) situation?" and then offers a set of possible answers: put up with the manager's behavior, in resentment and frustration; raise the manger's consciousness by explaining; go over the manager's head and make a complaint; call a meeting and make a complaint. Mitman says that Uechi-Ryu training has made it possible for him to deal with this problem successfully.
Mitman has answered his question. In the context of this thread, however, I would like to comment.
Employee who have sai -- strength of personality, presence -- will not ordinarily find managers pulling rank and competing with them in this fashion; that is the normal effect of sai. There are two exceptions.
One is when the manager perceives the employee with sai as a threat, and feels obliged to bluster and throw his/her weight around in response to that perception. This is standard Blaming behavior; it's exhibited by people who are themselves insecure and frightened, and who constantly test their own perception that they have _no_ power by pretending that they have lots of it. Paying attention to such behavior rewards it and encourages the Blamer to do it again.
The other is when a manager who has sai perceives that the employee has sai also and decides to challenge him/her either as sport -- because it would be fun to spar with such a person -- or to find out how well the employee can deal with the challenge, as a kind of test. In a case like this, the employee has to decide whether to accept the challenge, based on the circumstances at the time. Such a challenge may be a nuisance, and may be dangerous, but it is always a compliment.
Kerry Jolly wants to know what to do when, although you are perfectly capable of avoiding verbal confrontations, you have trouble dealing with the resulting emotions. She says that when faced with an angry confrontational person she can "avoid the 'fight' with the right words, or lack thereof" but still feels the anger or hurt.
First, Kerry, let's assume that avoiding the confrontation is the appropriate response to the other person. In that case, you need to get rid of the negative emotions instead of carrying them around with you; you need to take out the verbal trash. The best way to do that is to literally get it out of your system. Write a letter to the person who tried to fight with you, in which you write down every single one of the negative things you refrained from saying at the time of the interaction; read the letter over to be sure that it expresses your feelings fully; then destroy the letter. If writing isn't comfortable for you, get a tape recorder and say what you would have written in the letter; listen to the recording to be sure it expresses your feelings fully; then erase or destroy the tape. If words aren't your thing, you can draw or dance your feelings (or use whatever other medium is best for you) until they're no longer trash stored in your head. This is good for you; there's abundant evidence for that.
Second, I wonder about the source of the negative emotions; it may come from a misunderstanding. In your head, there's something called "the amygdala," which is always on duty scanning for danger. It can literally bypass the reasoning part of your brain and cause it to send out the neurotransmitters that go with anger and/or hurt, without any thought as to whether the anger and hurt make sense. This was tremendously valuable to human beings in the days when we were up against saber-tooth tigers; you had to react without thinking because there wasn't _time_ to think. It's not valuable against most of the dangers we face today, especially the verbal dangers.
The amygdala will only kick in when it perceives something as dangerous to you. Think about how you react when a two-year-old child runs at you and starts pounding on you with its tiny fists; you don't feel an instant reaction of fear and rage and hurt -- you don't feel forced to choose between fighting and fleeing -- you know the little one is no threat. Most of the time, people (of any age) who come at you with abusive language are much like that toddler. They're not trying to hurt you, and they're not a danger to you. _They're confronting you because they're hungry for human attention and have learned that picking a fight is one reliable way to get some._ When you know that -- when you know that what you're facing is someone who is a klutz rather than a threat -- you are more likely to feel compassion than anger or hurt.
George Mattison writes that men in our culture "are raised to believe that they must protect their families and themselves when faced with danger. If the danger includes foul language or 'touching,' the man feels inferior if he doesn't punish the offenders physically. Should the man talk his way out of this situation, he may suffer the consequences for years. Any thoughts on this subject?"
I'm not a man; I can't speak with authority about men. George _is_ a man, and therefore knows whereof he speaks. He says that men who don't respond physically to threats that include foul language or 'touching' feel inferior; he says that men who respond to such threats verbally instead of physically "may suffer the consequences for years." (I assume the consequences he refers to are the consequences of feeling shamed, and perhaps of being perceived by others as someone who has been shamed -- both internal punishment and external, therefore.)
There are two contexts in which I hear men say what George is saying. One is with male batterers, many of whom insist that they hit women and children and weaker men only because that's what -- as men -- they _have_ to do. It's required of them, they claim; it's their duty as men; they have no choice. The fault, they claim, lies with those who've put them into that bind where a physical response is the only one allowed to a man. The other context is with street kids who tell me that if they're dissed they have no choice -- they _must_ respond physically, perhaps with extreme or even deadly force. This, they tell me, is required of them, as men. ... This is where accepting this position regarding manhood and manliness leads.
Comment: I've known perhaps a dozen men who are _really_ deadly, who have been Green Berets or have had other Special Forces training -- men you'd be unwise to mess with. They're very quiet men; you never find them sitting around with other men giving descriptions of how dangerous they are and how scared everybody ought to be of them. I've never seen any of them respond physically to confrontation -- I've never known any of them to feel a _need_ to respond physically. In my experience, the less a man feels obliged to respond physically to threats, the more skilled he is likely to be at such responses. When a man is genuinely competent to defend himself -- in my opinion -- the sai that he projects, his presence, is more than enough; he does not have to do anything physical.
Yona asks if it has occurred to us that "if someone has a good point or a defendable position they shouldn't need to shout about it, since it should stand on its own merits?" I agree. Absolutely. But they do have to have the communications skills that will make it possible for them to _demonstrate_ that they have a good point or a defendable position. Or they have to have the kind of sai that makes people willing to accept their points and positions on faith alone.