Thursday, March 28, 2013

What would you do?

If you regularly saw someone behaving unfairly and unkindly, what would you do?

For a long time, I was terrified of confrontation. I would do just about anything to avoid it.

My dad was manipulative and my mom was and is passive, and these were my role models. I mean, they were many more things than that - plenty of positives. But our family was not direct, and there were lots of things we weren't allowed to talk about.

I mean, my dad could talk about anything he wanted. But for the rest of us, there were parameters. Voicing dissent or negative feelings? Not OK. My brother and I were taught early that we were fine. I'm fine, he's fine, she's fine. We're all fine. Fine, fine, always fine. Everything is fine.

One of my dad's phrases was, "End of discussion." He could say this at any time to shut down a conversation.

Makes you want to respond with a big, "Fuck you," doesn't it? Which of course none of us ever did.

And thus I may have this unrealistic need for fairness. I realize the world is not fair. But I do my best to make it so when I can.

So.

It took me an inordinately long time and a lot of work to learn how to be direct.

Actually, let me back up. I didn't even know I wasn't. It took me a very long time to learn how to recognize my feelings. And then to learn how to voice them to myself. And then to get the confidence to realize that they were valid and that I could express them to others.

I mean, I've always blurted out inappropriate, awkward things. But that's different.

So at this point, I think of myself as a fairly self-aware individual. I have the ability to put together a reasonable argument, and to hold my own in a discussion. When I know I'm right, I don't back down just because someone pushes.

I don't go looking for fights, but I don't shy away from them.

All of this leads me to needing some advice.

India goes to this day care that we love. Jordan was there before her. We adore the woman who runs it, and the staff is terrific. Very kind and caring and attentive. I totally trust them.

There is, however, a kid there with a dad who is a giant asshole. And this is where I need some help.

He is so rude to the staff. They are all women, and all Latina. They all speak English, but to varying degrees. There is a power differential. He's essentially their client.

And he's just a dick. I've never seen him not be rude. He walks in and bosses them around. He snaps at these very nice, competent women.

One night he was there when I was picking up India. We were there minutes before it closed, and so most of the staff had left. The ones still there with the very last of the kids couldn't find the little paper you get at the end of the day that tells you what your kid ate and how long they slept and that they enjoyed swinging and sliding at the playground.

He stomped around and complained and glared and huffed and puffed.

I wanted to say, "Seriously? Here - take mine. They had cheerios and bananas for breakfast. Quinoa and carrots and peas for lunch. Crackers and pears for snack. They slept from 1-3. They enjoyed singing songs at circle time. It doesn't vary that fucking much from day to day."

It doesn't. They'll call you if your kid is sick. They tell you if he got a scratch on the playground. They tell you anything of note.

Anyway. They apologized and he stomped.

But he's always a jerk. And I don't say anything. But I want to the next time. But here's the problem.

If he were doing it to me, I could say, "Please don't speak to me like that. There's no reason to be so rude."

He's not talking to me, though. And I know they won't say anything. They'll just keep being polite and he'll keep being a douche. It's not fair, and it makes me so angry.

I don't, however, know what to say.

What would you do?

25 comments:

  1. Say something like: impressionable little children are watching and learning from his rude behavior, and you do not want your kids to see their own sweet teachers treated so poorly. Make it about your kids so you have a leg to stand on.

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    1. This is definitely something to think about. And I hadn't thought of couching it that way. Particularly because it's true. One of my friends, whose daughter is also at the day care, said his son seems like he's going to be an asshole like his father. So he is definitely modeling behavior.

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  2. By confronting him, even in the most diplomatic manner, there is always the possibility that it may make his behavior worse and he may possibly take it out on his child after they leave. Sadly we can't put adult bullies into a time out. Sounds like he isn't unaware that he is being rude...he just doesn't care. And sounds like this jerk might think "ha, you think THAT was rude? Wait until tomorrow and I'll show you rude". But you could privately acknowledge his behavior with the staff and let them know that you are on their side. And then just hope to heck that he doesn't treat his child as horribly.

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    1. God, I would hope he wouldn't take it out on his son, but I have no idea, obviously. I don't know if he is or isn't. I mean, some people are just so miserable. I've never seen him smile. Maybe he needs antidepressants. I don't know. And I hope he wouldn't ratchet it up with the staff. That would be weird. But who knows, he might be weird as well.

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  3. you could make a side remark like "oh, bad day at work today?" or something to let him know that his attitude is poor without telling him such straight out. maybe he'll take the hint and rethink his tone/words? maybe not. he sounds like he won't care what a woman has to say anyway, direct or not.
    also, your family sounds very much like mine. i got yelled at and grounded for telling my guidance counselor in middle school that i was having trouble at home because my Dad drank. and the time he was so drunk he fell down the stairs and wasn't moving and i called 911? forget about it - my mother screamed at me like i'd just ruined us. "Everything is fine." always. ugh.

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    1. I don't think I could do that. Previously, it might've taken that approach, but if I'm going to say anything, I want to be direct and feel like I'm being constructive.

      That is, if I don't haul off and tell him to stop being such a fucking asshole. (How's that for modeling great behavior in front of children :)?)

      And I'm sorry to hear about that. It's terrible behavior for kids to deal with, and such an unhelpful response from your mom. Will really mess with a kid.

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  4. I would suggest complimenting the staff in front of him, which is genuine and an alternative view to his rudeness and negative behavior. So you're not directly addressing him, but you are expressing how you feel and showing support for the staff who deserve politeness, respect and praise for their hard work.

    I don't like confrontation either. I like to bring people together and focus on the good or at least making the best of things. That's one thing I love about being a data analyst - I might not always have good news to share and it's rare everyone is happy with the news - but it's based on facts and fair.

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    1. I love this suggestion!

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    2. You always have very measured, positive advice, Heather. I like the idea of complimenting the staff. I think I will do this within his earshot, regardless of how he's behaving.

      And re: what you said about your job, Nick said that sometimes he has clients who get angry about what he's telling them, and he says that he's basically acting as a thermometer. They can look at the thermometer and get mad that it's only 32 degrees outside, but that's just the fact. They can insist that it should be 70...but it's not.

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    3. I like this suggestion and I have an add-on. You could not only compliment the staff in his hearing, but say something to him along the lines of "Oh, I think these women are wonderful, don't you?" Or point out how well they take care of your children and mention how happy the kids are.

      I don't think confronting him would have any positive result, but taking the high road is always a good idea!

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  5. I've read enough http://notalwaysright.com/ to know that the staff isn't always in the position to be able to say something and that when another customer speaks up, they are grateful for it. That being said, you could certainly be direct in pointing specifically to the behavior that is unwarranted. Likely, he'll take it out on you, not his child or the women. So, if you don't mind him turning that assholery toward you (and I suspect you'd be able to take it and stand up for yourself in a way these women won't/cannot), I say go for it. :)

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    1. I do think it's true that they are not in a position to say anything to him. And I don't mind him being assholey to me. I can certainly hold my own.

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  6. yup, tough one but some great suggestions in the comments. I'd probably say something like "would you treat your mother this way?" but that probably wouldn't have any effect. I like the bad day at work comment, said in a kind way, maybe he's looking for attention and sympathy? personally if I had the balls, I'd just smack him (but we know violence never solves anything....)

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    1. There are a lot of great suggestions, it's true. I love how thoughtful the comments are. Maybe he's looking for attention and sympathy...but it doesn't seem like it. He just seems like an angry person. No, violence never solves anything. (But I do think that for just a moment, it might feel good to haul off and smack someone.)

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  7. If he's being loud and rude, you should definitely say that you don't appreciate your daughter (and other kids) having to witness it. If he's just taking it out on the staff you could say something like "Seriously?" and if he challenges you, point out that you have never seen him be anything other than rude and yet you have never had anything to complain about. You don't have to add anything even if he has a go at you. I'm sure you'll make a point though.

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    1. He's not loud, just rude. It is true that I've never seen anything be anything other than rude...You know, it kind of makes me want to ask him what his problem is. Because it's true - I have no complaints, and neither do other people I know who have kids there.

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  8. I personally would ask him why he is so rude all of the time. At the least, he would feel momentary embarrassment. And if he started with me, I think I would let him know that no one wants to listen to his poor behavior and let him know he's an asshole. Maybe he doesn't know: ) Someone needs to call him on it. I'm sure it affects the atmosphere in there.

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    1. This is what I want to ask. Why are you so rude all the time? That might be the best approach, because it's asking for an answer, rather than just saying hey, you're a dick. Maybe he doesn't know, or maybe he needs antidepressants? You are right that it affects the atmosphere - you can see them tense up.

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  9. I think if you say something to him, do it out in the parking lot away from the nice ladies so he doesn't feel humiliated and turn his anger and rage on them now or in the future. Other than that, I have no help. Bt good luck!

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  10. I would say something like, The rude way you treat the staff here makes me very uncomfortable. I don't know if you even realize how inappropriate that behavior is, especially in front of children. I'd appreciate it if you would refrain.

    Well, that's what one should say. What I probably would say is more like, You are such a bully to these women. Every time I see you talk that way to them, I'm enraged. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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  11. sorry so late to the party; i have no advice for now, as my fellow pre school moms and dads are thus far very nice and cordial. however, we were at the Franklin Institute the other day, waiting in line for an activity, and a little boy about four and half to five (declan is three and a half) started to butt in front of him. and then sidled up a bit more. to which declan became aware and said "boy, i'm next, you're last!" i fist bumped him. then the little fucker pushed him out of the way and *i* said "little boy, my son is next". by now we have an audience. conspicuously absent? said boy's father, who is about five yards away, staring at his phone (of course). this little shit didn't back off until my HUSBAND said something to him. now, i didn't think anything of it until afterwards when greg said something like "his father is teaching him to not listen to women"..then i got PISSED. sorry to highjack your comments, but i hadn't relayed that story to anyone yet and it seemed somehow appropo...

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  12. Fantasize about beating the crap out of him; but say nothing. That's what I do.

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  13. Ok there was a time when I would fume over his rudeness but do nothing, not these days, I hate seeing people disrespected I think there is too much of it and if nothing is said people think they are justified in doing it. I would just say to him one day after he had done one of his manly demonstrations Excuse me but I actually find the way you speak to the ladies who take such wonderful care of our children quite offensive, would you allow anyone to speak to your wife like that?" and then just quietly turn around and walk away. He will probably be too gobsmacked to say anything.

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  14. As this man is bullying the staff in public, and you're an affected member of the public, you do have the right to speak up; What would they say in any bullying program?

    Stand up to bullies; if the majority of us did, there would be a helluva lot less of it going on in schools, workplaces, and behind closed doors of the family home. This asshole probably bullies his family, his secretaries, waiters and waitresses, and any other peons unfortunate enough to cross his path. Probably nobody stands up to him.

    If he's too intimidating, you could write it all out on a card, a line about each incident you remember, to jog his memory. Perhaps as he's carrying on, you'll have an opportunity to ad a last line, you know, 'And now this' which is really the last straw.

    Tuck the card in an envelope, and keep it in your purse, just in case the next time this happens, you're not in the right frame of mind to deal with him eyeball-to-eyeball. You could hand it to him or put it under a windshield wiper. Anything is preferable to him not hearing about himself. Tell him that if he thinks he's coming off like Top Dog, he should know he's really coming off as classless and pathetic.

    Really, the owner should call him into the office and calmly read him the riot act about respecting her, and her staff. She has a duty to protect her staff from attitude abuse. She should tell Mr. Asshole that the next time he approaches the staff in that manner, he will receive notice to take his son somewhere else....but I understand what you've told us about why she doesn't do this. Not everyone has your magnificent courage.

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  15. at times like this i looove being from the south... my granny always had these expressions that while not nasty in themselves will let a person know that they are out of line...
    "hmmm someones grits were cold this morning" ...and while he'd have no idea what you're talking bout he'd get the message... that's the beauty of southern speak..it is all metaphors and awesomes...
    ...that said..i saw that hes moving and congratulate you on your patience :-)
    xoxo

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