I want to stand up for myself without freaking out.
October 2, 2014 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I was treated like crud yesterday by the owner of a hobby store I frequent often. He's rude to his customers in general... basically a big bully. I didn't really stand up for myself yesterday since I have difficulty regulating my emotions - I have a very hard time asserting myself without going on tilt. I feel like I should stand up for myself in moments like this, but I rarely do since I don't want to cause a scene. How could I better handle myself in situations like the one from yesterday? Details inside.

The owner has been weird to me in the past, but yesterday was beyond his usual level of asshole. I was playing a board game with some other people and accidentally dropped my game case, spilling my models everywhere. A fellow customer offered to help me pick up what I had dropped, and the owner then said "Why would you help him? He practically threw his case in front of you." I couldn't believe it, but didn't say anything, and continued picking up my pieces. (The customer didn't help after what the owner said).

I did not throw the case... I'm just clumsy at times and dropped it. I didn't respond because like I said I can't control my emotions well, and I think the situation would have escalated quickly - I was ready to scream at him, call him all sorts of names, etc. When I am upset with family members, I usually either 1.) don't do anything and brood, or 2.) freak out - rarely anything in-between these two extremes. When I am in public, I'm more averse to blowing up and so am usually passive... but am in a bad mood afterwards. I have a therapist who I work with for anger management issues, but it's been slow going.

Taking into consideration my anger problems, and the fact that I can't see my therapist for a while... I'd like your advice. How do you think I could have reacted better to the situation I was in? Not saying anything got me out of the store with no issues, but I can't help but feel like I should have stood up for myself at least in some way. Is there any way you think i could show that I'm displeased without saying anything - as I don't think I'm at the point in which I can respond verbally without dramatically escalating the situation? All I can think of at the moment is to write a bad review on Yelp + never go to the store again (which sucks, since it's the only hobby shop in my town)... but I'd like something I could do while the problem is occurring, so I can feel like I at least did something. Thanks.
posted by Thanquol180 to Human Relations (41 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd focus on thanking the person who is helping you instead of giving any attention whatsoever to the rude person.
posted by headnsouth at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2014 [31 favorites]

I would have made a joke of it. "I tried throwing it at him, but missed!"

Either that or stay quiet. You're in his store, he's a jerk. Not doing anything isn't defeat, it's being the bigger person. Plus, it gives him absolutely no ammunition to work with.
posted by xingcat at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

A fellow customer offered to help me pick up what I had dropped, and the owner then said "Why would you help him? He practically threw his case in front of you."

In that case I would have said "he's helping me because he's not an asshole". Going forward I would stop patronizing a store owned by such a dick. That might be hard because it's the only hobby shop in town, but can you play these same board games elsewhere? A community center? A board game cafe? A regular cafe? It might seem like a pretty big undertaking, but if you could be proactive at inviting people you know from the store to socialize and interact outside of the store and you'd never have to see the guy again. That is doing something!
posted by kate blank at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

In this situation, I would say nothing to the owner, but ignore him and say something nice to the customer helping you, such as: "I'm so sorry to be so clumsy! Thanks so much for your help." (I think most normal people would continue/resume assisting you after a statement like that.)

And, then I would stop patronizing this store and giving this asshole your money! The benefit of shopping at local stores where the prices might be a bit higher than online is theoretically that you're getting BETTER/more personal service (and helping to support a business run by an awesome/cool person rather than a faceless corporation). If that is not happening, then why in the world would you want to support this guy and keep him in business? The best revenge is to remove your support and instead actively support other local businesses with better practices (and encourace friends to do the same). For example, if you like having a local place to play board games with friends, perhaps suggest the following: "Hey, the owner of X Hobby Store was a real jerk to me the other day, and this isn't the first time. How about moving our Thursday game night to Lovely Cafe down the street where the baristas are super cool instead?"
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

You could say, "It was an accident," because he accused you of something that wasn't true. But other than that, there's no sense in escalating it. Say you tell him it was an accident, he will surely snipe back and there will be no sense in pushing the argument further. You'll just have to drop it. Sure, you could say, "Hey, why are you such an asshole all the time? You disrespect your paying customers all the time." But I doubt you'd accomplish anything. It's about picking your battles. And you can defend yourself or clarify something once, but know when it's devolving into an argument and back off.

But if you are an explosive personality and it's hard to stop once you get going, your tact of just not responding may be best. So this guy was an asshole. Who really cares? Life goes on. He looked like the jerk, not you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you have trouble coming up on the spot with what you really want to say given the absurdity of his comment, and don't want to blow up, you can say with finality "well, you're a creep and an asshole". That's the only thing that was shown here, and that's really all that needs to be said. And then continue on.
posted by Blitz at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2014

Ignore bullies, deflect assholes. You look coolheaded and gracious, because that's what cool headed, gracious people do.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah he was rude but I don't think this is a big deal. This definitely qualifies under "don't sweat the small stuff". I'd simply ignore his comment and go on with my life. Responding to quips like that often makes you seem like the bad guy and gives him power knowing it affected you.

I'm not saying you should always ignore, but this is pretty low level stuff.
posted by Aranquis at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but - the customer didn't help me. He began to, then stopped right after the owner said his piece. So I can't really thank him, I guess.
posted by Thanquol180 at 12:52 PM on October 2, 2014

Yeah about your only recourse with a person like that is to ignore them. Engaging them at all is mistake. Don't sink to their level. If it'd been me, I would have continued helping you and just ignored the guy.

If you really want to do something, put your foot down. The next time the guy is rude to you just say "Look man, I come in here and I spend money. I help to pay your paycheque, so you can either stop being rude to me or I can take my business elsewhere, and encourage others to do the same." Be really calm when you say this, and you should expect that the guy may try to ridicule you in response. Be ready for it. If he's not receptive to what you're saying just nod sort of sadly like this was exactly the response you expected, say "Alright man, have it your way, good luck with your business" then leave and don't come back. Invite your friends to come to your house and play instead, serve beer, watch movies, do other fun things you couldn't do at the store if for some reason they like hanging out there.

A person who relies on people like you to stay in business should be all about making sure you're happy and having a good time. If he just wants to be alpha-nerd don't reward his behavior with your continued presence or cash.
posted by signsofrain at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

People like that want you to react. It's what feeds them. The more you respond, the more likely it is he will attack you again.

Know that emotions can be a choice. When he's a rude bastard, and you choose to let that affect you by becoming angry, he is in control. When he's a rude bastard, and you choose to NOT let it affect you by ignoring him and feeling nothing, YOU are in control.

This takes practice, but in the moment, remember that YOU choose what you want to feel, not the jerks. Take a deep breath, force a smile, and move on. If you react to his taunts, you are feeding the troll.
posted by slipthought at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

So, I acutally think the person might have started helping you again if you gave a thank you or engaged him in some way. It's hard to know exactly what happened, but if he was initially starting to help, I'm guessing the owner's statement + your silence made him feel awkward/he didn't know what to do and so he just stopped doing anything as that is the path of least resistance.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:54 PM on October 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

a "withdrawal of custom" is where you resolve never to patronize a store again, for any reason you deem sufficient. as an internet stranger, i deem the stated reason sufficient.
posted by bruce at 12:58 PM on October 2, 2014 [23 favorites]

In a moment like that where this guy lashed out at you and wanted you to feel badly, not reacting can feel like agreement with him and not standing up for yourself. But as others have pointed out, you did the right thing, especially for you (knowing your own habits). I agree with others that saying to the person helping "oh, of course I didn't throw it, thank you for the offer" would have been a) being gracious to the person who was going to help and b) quietly show that you can take the high road, which only highlights what a jerk the shop guy was being.

Never escalate, unless someone is in immediate danger. You did right here!
posted by ldthomps at 1:03 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hmm. I think for me I would have gone for something along the lines of, "Ok, bro. I won't be patronizing your store anymore in the future." And given him a weird look and possibly asked "WTF is your problem?" or tried to communicate the sentiment in body language with or without the TF.

There is no reason for a store owner to be egregiously rude to a customer. In terms of what you can actually do about it, I mean, people are going to be rude assholes sometimes, but it's fully within your purview to not continue to go to his store anymore and also to post something to Yelp if you want to. Don't sweat it insofar as you can make a choice to never actually have to interact with this person again.
posted by mermily at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't escalate these issues. Never fight with a pig, you get dirty and the pig likes it. You did the exact right thing.

I think it's weird that the other customer stopped helping, but maybe he/she is a timid sort and got cowed.

I don't care how cool the company is, I wouldn't set foot in that place again.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:07 PM on October 2, 2014 [15 favorites]

There is a joke post going around tumblr rn which is actually pretty decent advice for random moments of assholery from others, which is basically "any time you can't think of how to respond to someone just say 'how dare you'". It doesn't even need to be a dramatic accusation, just a flat statement of "wow you're a huge douche".
posted by poffin boffin at 1:10 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's a little dated, but Your Perfect Right is a great book on learning how to be assertive but not aggressive. Especially if you can't see your therapist for a while, you may find it helpful.
posted by jaguar at 1:12 PM on October 2, 2014

I have trouble finding things to say on the spot as well. A friend told me her trick which I've been using to great success, which basically involves asking "Why". So if someone asks a rude question: "Why do you ask"? If someone makes a false accusation: "Why did you say that"? If someone makes an unfair request: "Why do you need me to do that"? It puts them on the defensive, and gives me time to think.

I think "Why did you say that?" would have worked very well in your situation.
posted by rada at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I am sorry to say that I am not always a big enough person to just ignore an idiot like this (and consider not patronizing their store.)

My two go to strategies are either to mock -- "You're right! It was attempted homicide by thrown game case! I confess!" or, more often, to make a sarcastic comment, like "Thanks so much for encouraging this nice person's kindness."

For example, a week and a half ago someone at my bus stop walked up to me and started nattering about how I shouldn't have a luggage tag on my briefcase. I ignored her, then pointed at my earphones, and finally said "What?" and listened to her lecture, then responded "Thanks so much for your patronizing advice."

The thing about the sarcastic thank you is that it is just polite enough to leave the obnoxious person without a reply.

However, other commenters who have suggested simply not hanging out at this place anymore are getting to the source of the problem -- whatever is making a person act awful generally can't be fixed quickly, so if they are upsetting you, shift your patterns to avoid them.
posted by bearwife at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Hobby stores. I'm guessing there isn't another suitable venue in town or everybody would be there instead of dealing with this jerkoff. If you can, obviously that's advice #1.

Short-term, pick a stock phrase you like that you can blurt out when people are being assholes that doesn't rile you up too much. "Excuse me?", "Bless your heart", and "Rude" all work well. Whenever nothing witty comes to mind, use your phrase.

Long-term, you might want to work on your ability to express yourself without blowing your top.
posted by zug at 1:32 PM on October 2, 2014

I feel the same, and really, to react, no matter in what little way allows me to learn how to react in a more satisfactory way. That's practising. Recently, I've tried to be more assertive at work, in my family, with strangers. The thing is that eventually I don't feel the same urge to react because I know that I could, which is not the same as when I didn't because I felt that I couldn't control myself or that I wasn't entitled to. I mean, I begin to really feel the way people treat me not as a problem that I have but as a problem they do have. Stating what's on your mind in the most neutral way, without adressing or criticizing the other person's behaviour could keep you on safe grounds ("It was an accident"or "I'm so sorry to be so clumsy! Thanks so much for your help" is fine) and you don't have to go any further. Keeping an internal dialogue for days doesn't feel that good.
posted by nicolin at 1:32 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

the customer didn't help me. He began to, then stopped right after the owner said his piece. So I can't really thank him, I guess.

Sounds like this store is a sick environment, kind of like a bad workplace. The regular clientele sounds like they're either ass-kissers or scared of the manager guy. Look for a new store.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:33 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of the "Why did you say/do that?" method. Play absolutely dumb. "Why would you say that? Why would someone do that deliberately?" Wait for an answer. Waiiiiiiiit. Let their discomfort build. And then, if they can't or won't answer, just look a little sorry for them as you turn away.

When people are saying to thank the person who started to help you, they mean in the moment, turn to the person who's actually being nice and thank them, if something like that happens again. You can even apologize that the asshole yelled at them. Make a show of being a bigger person than the bully. They were being nice to you.

I'm guessing this is the Local Comic Shop kind of place where you go to play games, and there's not another option. Unfortunately, the kind of people who run those places often thrive on their tiny little taste of dictatorship and are just jerks. There's not all that much to stand up for in terms of standing up for yourself, like it's just a shitty way to treat people and they know that so it's not like you can inform them of their error. Just be obviously sad that they are such a horrid little person with no joy in their lives except making other people feel bad.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm confused at people saying there are no other options of places to go. Maybe this is the only place where people play games NOW, but I find it exceedingly hard to believe that there are literally no other places were groups of people can gather in the general area. There has got to be a coffee shop, cafe, community center, school, heck SOMEONE'S LIVING ROOM that is not run by a giant asshat who harasses all the customers. Perhaps it would take some doing to organize this, but I think standing up for yourself here is about taking active control over your life and not allowing people to treat you in this manner. This guy may never learn not to be a jerk, but he can learn that there are consequencs of treating others in this manner. Certainly relocating will have much more impact (both in terms of hurting his bottom line and in terms of you not being treated like shit) than making some sort of snappy comeback.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

You did the right thing.

Especially if you know you have anger problems, it's better to say nothing, rather than something stupid.

Also, if this guy is dumb enough to be rude to his customers, there's no hope for him. Arguing or answering back won't improve matters.

I would suggest never shopping there again, that is the appropriate retaliation against a storekeeper who is rude to his customers.

You can get your hobby stuff online, play games somewhere other than the store. Meetup.com was made for this.
posted by tel3path at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

rainbowbrite - depends on the game. The "models" comment makes me think the OP plays something like warhammer, which requires specialized tables to play on and could not be easily done at a random public place.
posted by zug at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you handled it well. He came off looking like an asshat in front of other customers. It's not easy for anyone to remain calm in tense social situations and is usually best to let the jerks dig their own holes.

However, if I were devious and slightly evil... This guy is a known jerk, you want to vote with your dollars and you also want to feel more comfortable handling these types of situations. Can you buy stuff from online shops instead, but still go in to play games just to use the bastard for practice? You said he's been weird in the past, chances are he'll be weird in the future. Maybe it would take some of the pressure off to approach it like a psychological experiment and try some of the techniques mentioned above. He is your lab rat and you are a gleeful mad scientist.

Regardless, you're probably doing much better than you think you are.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nope - better to say nothing - he's an ass, nothing you can say will change that and people like this are looking to pick fights with others - they want you to take the bait and retaliate.

To the person who started helping you, you could have said (regardless of the fact that they stopped), thanks - just to give some acknowledgement as it sounds like they are pretty bullied by this person.

Otherwise, just don't go back - that's the most powerful thing you can do.
posted by heyjude at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by oceanjesse at 4:20 PM on October 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Perhaps it's a cliche and maybe he was a bit of a Dr. Phil in his day (or so my therapist likes to jest), but I will never doubt the significance of Dr. Wayne Dyer's "Pulling Your Own Strings." My Dad lauded this book as I was growing up and for good reason. It takes what others have said above about "don't give him the reaction he's seeking" and expands it into an entire book replete with real world examples and techniques on how to stop letting other people... well, pull your strings. It is an enjoyable, breezy but essential read and I strongly believe that you will feel empowered by the book, and find at least some of the answers you're seeking to stand up for yourself while circumventing the manipulative intentions of others.

Any time someone says something passive aggressive, hateful or sarcastic to you, they are doing it with the unwavering intent of having a (negative) effect on you. They are satisfied when they see that their unkind words have made you miserable. It's their end goal. But if you politely ignore individuals like this (act as if you didn't hear them/they're not even in the same room), they suddenly feel... effete. "Hmm, that didn't work.. He didn't get mad, or even pout. Now I feel kind of stupid." Granted, this is not an overnight process - it takes days or weeks of practicing "non-reaction" for regular abusers to learn that you are no longer an easy target for their predatory tactics. Some will never learn. Those people don't matter. Their need to get a reaction out of others says everything about them (insecurity) and little about you.

But the point is that when you make the conscious choice to not react, you are making the choice to remain in control of your mind and body regardless of what others may say. Pull your own (marionette) strings. Why would you want to let anyone else pull them? I ask myself that same question any time I feel tempted to react to someone else's cruelty. It resets my mind and renews my confidence.
posted by nightrecordings at 5:04 PM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

OP, very very good for you for not blowing up at the guy. What went down in that store was all kinds of wrong and not your fault in the least, and, crucially: you kept your cool! This means you have been doing extremely well with your personal work and therapy - so congratulations on that! I hope you get to share this victory with your therapist.

So many terrific comeback lines here in these comments - and you know what? In the heat of the moment, I would not have thought to use any of them because I can't think on my feet that quickly, but - I think that silence is also perfectly ok in these shitty on-the-spot situations, too.

Anyway, I'm sorry he treated you so poorly, and I hope you find a happier, more welcoming local place to get your hobby game on in the future. Nthing that the fine readership of Yelp would appreciate your honest feedback.
posted by hush at 5:45 PM on October 2, 2014

Yes, if you feel comfortable doing so, please post a Yelp review to help others avoid this guy.

I'll echo other comments in that keeping your cool is always a better response than saying something you may regret, may only make you look bad, and likely will not do any good since bullies often do these things to get a rise out of you (so any response would have been a win for him). He also deserves to lose your business. That will send a more effective message than a clever retort.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:10 PM on October 2, 2014

There's a lot of advice to not "give him the reaction he wants", with the implication that he's spoiling for a fight. But unless other people are fighting with him a lot, that doesn't seem to be the reaction he's getting, so it's presumably not the reaction he wants.

I think he's getting what he wants, which is people rolling over and taking his abuse.

If you can respond aggressively but without losing your temper, you might be able to test this. If he were to make a similar statement again I might say something like "What an asinine comment. You're a real prick, man." The key is not to get angry. Say it like you're disappointed in someone who ought to know better. Because he ought to.

He'll either fold, like most cowards do when someone stands up to their bullying, or he'll kick you out of his shop. The latter would be better than continuing to take his abuse.
posted by jingzuo at 6:13 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Add my voice to the chorus that says you handled it well. You are asking about what you should do next time as if you didn't do anything this time. But you did: you kept a crappy situation from getting worse, you reined in a temper you know can get away from you.

When I think about situations like this, the kind where I feel like I didn't stand up for myself, the kind where I BURN with resentment after, I really empathize with you. But maybe another way to think of it is that this guy basically called you an idiot and a jerk, and you feel bad because you didn't speak up to say that you aren't an idiot or a jerk. But what you did do is demonstrate that you are neither an idiot nor a jerk.

As for the person who stopped helping, probably they were kind of stupefied by the storeowner's rudeness. That kind of situation happens so quickly, and if you're in unfamiliar territory sometimes it's just impossible to do the right thing. For all we know, that person is feeling bad because they didn't defend you or keep helping. Life is messy!
posted by looli at 8:31 PM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is what Yelp reviews are for.
posted by Jubey at 1:18 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The key thing is you kept your cool, and good for you. But if you can also keep your cool while asking that piece of human garbage how he lives with himself, go for it.
posted by whuppy at 3:52 AM on October 3, 2014

"I feel like I should stand up for myself in moments like this..."

You don't have to feel this way, though. There's no moral obligation. It sounds like he just kind of says random things and is unpleasant. I think you're feeling doubly bad because you think there is some way you should be responding, that you're not. But you're not doing badly at all. You are not to blame for the way he is acting.
posted by BibiRose at 4:14 AM on October 3, 2014

I was treated like crud yesterday by the owner of a hobby store I frequent often. He's rude to his customers in general..

There's your problem. Why are you spending your time patronizing the store of someone who is rude to you? That is the time to stand up for yourself. You've already established by going back to a store where the owner treats you like shit that you're willing to put up with him treating you like shit.
posted by empath at 6:28 AM on October 3, 2014

If you do choose to use the bastard for practice, and you are of course under no obligation to do so, I humbly submit the following suggestions:
  • You have already got a handle on the most important part: Keeping your cool. When you choose to engage, you must maintain your cool. And it's a whole new level of skill to keep your cool when engaged. This, rather than your wit or cleverness, is the skill that will pay dividends throughout your life.
  • There are many possible tones to take, such as sangfroid, detached amusement, or perhaps a reproachful disgust. Figure out what works for you and stick with it.
  • You don't have to be outright hostile or even passive aggresive to assert yourself. Believe in yourself and your own goodness and righteousness, and you can be patient and even kind when countering this sort of abuse.
  • For example, you could be a total bro and say "Dude, that's no way to be."
  • If you've got the sangfroid down, you could say something like "Really. That was clearly an accident and your first impulse is to shit on this person's kind gesture. Really."
  • If you can manage to amused by people's shittiness, you could ask him what's his damage and could he show you where the bad man touched him. Admittedly not my best suggestion, but that's how I've learned to deal with outrageous shitheads.
  • Or perhaps a simple, reproachful "What's wrong with you?"
  • Last one, wide-eyed amazement: "Wow. You're a really awful person, aren't you?"
IMHO, there's a whole lot of room to express your utter contempt for his behavior without getting into "wrestling the pig" territory. Plus your shining example might snap some people out of their Stockholm syndrome.
posted by whuppy at 7:59 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stop going to that store, if possible. Spend your money somewhere where they don't treat you like shit.
posted by atinna at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2014

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