When isn't it acceptable anymore?
January 5, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Does being passionate about something means you can let go of things you wouldn't in other situations?

Hello members of AskMeFi

I need your perspective on an event that's been bugging me for a while.
I'm an avid horserider. Horses and horseriding is my passion. I am lucky to be part of a dressage team. We train twice a week and compete two Sundays a month. Last Monday we had a training session.
I entered the arena with the horse, was to the point to say "Hello and happy new year" to my coach, but he interrupted me. He started to talk to me in a very harsh way and told me unfair things. The reason why he acted that way was because I still haven't done the annual compulsory medical visit that would allow me to compete that year. Because I won't compete in January (as I told him so some weeks earlier) I decided to postpone the medical visit -because right now I have absolutely no time for anything else than working -and horseriding.
I told him I couldn't find a doctor appointment that would fit with my planning, and that I would do this in February. I told him this with a calm but firm tone.
At that point I just wanted to bring the horse back to his stable and go back home. But… at the same time I was so happy to be here, with the horse, that I just tried to let go of my anger. And after 5 minutes in the saddle I had forgotten my coach's bad mood and was totally absorbed by the lesson.
I'm wondering : does my passion about horses must excuse any behavior from the trainer? One the one hand, he is a very good teacher, and he knows it. If I go somewhere else, I know I'll have a hard time finding someone that competent. One the other hand, he's famous for his lunatic attitude, one minute he is charming, the minute after he behaves like an asshole. I won't change that.
My fellow riders were compassionate (they heard the whole discussion), asked me if I was okay, and told me that he could be so stupid sometimes. They weren't too worried for me because I'm seen as someone very calm : I don't get anxious if the horse is excited / rears a lot etc for example, and I don't mind the trainer being severe, as long as he is being fair.
If I accept him to talk to me the way he did last monday I'm afraid it'll rub on me and then I'll act that way to the people around me.
Right now I'm still a bit frustrated and angry by his attitude, and am wondering if my reaction was right.
Should I have left the arena? Should I have told him something like "your reaction is disproportionate with the subject"? Does being passionate on a subject allows anything to happen?
I thank you a lot in advance for your answers, you have always been very helpful.

PS : please excuses the grammar / spelling mistakes, English isn't my mother tongue.
posted by OrangeCat to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think leaving the situation would have been helpful. It's like the old saying, "cutting off your nose to spite your face" ("Don't cut off your nose to spite your face" is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one's anger.") In this case leaving the lesson, putting your horse away would have hurt you more than your instructor.

You can however let him know that talking to you in that manner is not acceptable. You are free to walk away or turn around or basically leave the conversation if he's treating you in a way that is not good for you. That doesn't mean you have to stomp off, cancel the lesson. Just end the conversation and give him notice that speaking to you in that way is unacceptable.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:38 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you need to consider this from another angle, actually. Rather than reacting negatively or saying something regarding his action, you went about your business. Essentially you were the bigger person because you didn't let his reaction affect you one bit from the sounds of it.

I don't know...call me crazy, but I think by the fact that you remained calm, simply said "Ok" and then continued calmly about your horseriding business (while enjoying it even) probably said enough and was probably the ultimate "In your face!" reaction you could have taken. Oftentimes these types of passionate reactions in the face of others who try to push us down is more than enough of a response and then some.

Now, if having the medical exam late is a liability thing, then of course he had full rights to be upset as it could be putting the team/group/arena at risk. However, if he was acting inappropriate and your medical exam could be permissable in being done in February, then maybe something else is amiss with him and he was taking it out on you.
posted by floweredfish at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

To answer your main question: No. While it is common for people who are very very passionate to lose perspective, it does not excuse their behavior at all.

If you're able to keep a calm attitude when that is happening, saying "Can we talk about this later when we're both in a better mood?" can help make the situation better. Saying that you're both in a bad mood can prevent the trainer from feeling attacked.

Later when things are calmer you can have a more direct talk in which you say "I realize you are passionate about things, but please do not put me down or berate me."

If I accept him to talk to me the way he did last monday I'm afraid it'll rub on me and then I'll act that way to the people around me.

Whether you accept it or not, I wouldn't worry about it rubbing off on you. If you had the sort of personality that does that you would know by now.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:49 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Horse trainers are notoriously nuts. My sister-in-law is a (non-crazy) trainer, but the stories she can tell about trainers she has encountered, worked with, worked for, and trained under who are complete lunatics are legion.

You did the right thing in this situation, I think. Get your appointment settled ASAP, and as soon as you have the date, tell your trainer when it is. That will at least get him off your back about that, although no doubt in he'll find something else to ride you about in the future.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some people act that way. You said that you doubt you can change him, and that he's such a good teacher that you'll suffer more than he will if you walk away. I think you just have to accept that he's kind of crazy, try to brush off anything hurtful, and focus on the fact that you're learning so much from him that it's worth it to put up with his behavior (unless it isn't). Your teammate's reactions tell you that it was understandable that you were upset, but you handled it perfectly. If you continue to feel so frustrated and angry that it affects your enjoyment of riding, then you can reassess.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:30 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your horse was acting up and being completely unreasonable you would react the same way you did when this other animal, your trainer, acted up and was being unreasonable. You dealt with the situation gently but firmly and went about your business and forgot about the misbehaviour. I think you handled the situation well. Your trainer may eventually learn that his histrionics will not gain him anything when dealing with you, or he may not. But at least you don't have to ride him.
posted by Floydd at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW, the absolutely best trainer I ever worked with bellowed at people all the time. A lot of people quit working with him because of it. Many of the riders at his barn worked with his employees instead of him because they didn't want to or couldn't handle his manner. However, he was never ever wrong. Seriously. He was a true "Diva."

If you think the trainer honestly forgot that you would not be part of the team in January and honestly thought your failure to get the certificate was compromising the team, then let it go.

If you think this is his personality and he's okay with it, then think about whether or not you need to start looking for other opportunities.

To me, it sounds like you recovered quickly and this was not normal for him. If it is normal for the trainer, having to recover again and again and again may wear you down.

It is not okay to behave badly even if you are passionate, under a lot of pressure, just out of an abusive relationship, getting over a bad flu, etc. it's just not okay. We do it all the time though, and there's always a cost-benefit analysis in personal and professional relationships.

(your question helped me decide about riding today - coming down with something and decided I don't want to risk being grumpy with my horse!)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like your trainer is of the school that 'breaks' animals so they will do exactly what he wants and nothing else-- and I don't mean just the four-footed ones.

He may be taking the fact that you are obviously not broken as a challenge to him personally, and your general calmness as a challenge to his entire way of doing things.

Expect more harsh treatment until you are broken, or until you leave-- which his horses unfortunately cannot.
posted by jamjam at 12:16 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I do not pay you to yell at me. This is unprofessional". Then walk away and calmly continue your lesson.
posted by Shouraku at 2:07 PM on January 5, 2012

"I do not pay you to yell at me. This is unprofessional". Then walk away and calmly continue your lesson.

Don't ever do that.

If you are working with a high-calibre trainer or coach, these people are typically very volatile and possessed of no small amount of ego. It's either worth it for the skills you gain or it isn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:19 PM on January 5, 2012

"I do not pay you to yell at me. This is unprofessional". Then walk away and calmly continue your lesson.

Don't ever do that.

Or, do it. I said exactly that to an Olympic gold medal winning fencer diva. Yes he was shocked beyond belief, but he never yelled at me again.

That is not to discount DarlingBri's comment, because your instructor could just explode and refuse to have you as a student. However, I do think that there is value is remembering that you an in a service/client relationship with this man.
posted by Shouraku at 4:59 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

.... there is value is remembering that you an in a service/client relationship with this man.

That's not clear to me - it's also possible he chose her for a team that has financial backers or is by invitation.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2012

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