This discussion has been very thought-provoking. I am completely in agreement with calling out the dominance. I’ve been trying to teach people to be less involved in telling me to smile, relax, lighten up and anything that involves me fitting their picture better. They have an image and try to make me play along. They don’t understand their effect as being inappropriately directive. Maybe they think they’re being adult — manly and in control. Educating people is not always possible, especially if they’re stuck in their power trip and not open to developing their humanity. Some are just not teachable. My safety comes first.
This is all taking me back to many years ago, at my last waitressing job. After the new co-owner had been there a few months, he decided it was time for an impromptu staff meeting. In a loud, scolding voice, he told us, “I want to see you guys smiling!” It was so absurd, I had to laugh. I felt bad for the guy for being so out of touch with his ability to be tender with others. I told him with genuine and firm encouragement, full eye contact and in my most friendly, cheerfully engaging and playfully provocative way, which all covered up my initial annoyance, that it would be great if he could help us feel like smiling with his own manner, so we could pass it along. Amazingly, he softened. After that, he was gentler.
The situation with a stranger is much more dangerous and frightening. In my situation, it was because I wasn’t triggered to my fear and anger that I was able to try to have a meaningful exchange with this man and move forward my agenda of improving the situation and being present and honest with him, while respectful. That’s not always the case. And underneath it all, this man was open to change and to being influenced, despite his bluster. That’s not always the case, either.
No answers here. It’s just so difficult to relate to people in power trips. I can get really triggered. I want power, too. I don’t always stay calm and think. But I’m working at it.