We were on holidays a couple of years ago at a resort in the Bahamas. We had saved to go, found a resort that accommodates 5 (easier said than done, most want you to book 2 rooms and have 1 adult stay in each room, and many don’t even guarantee the rooms will be next to each other!) and booked an “Island view”.
I despise cold, so I was particularly looking forward to going in the dead of winter and we were really looking forward to the break.
We arrived to find our “Island view” was a view of the hotels’ dumpsters. Literally.
As some of you know, I do my best to practice what I preach, and if I matter, then we did not come to look at tropical hotel garbage! That is NOT what was advertised nor what we signed up for.
So I politely went to the front desk, explained the situation and asked how we could work together to resolve the situation. They made some excuses and didn’t offer anything, so I respectfully asked for another room. They said they were all full and there was nothing to be done about it. When I insisted, they said to come back the next day. I am a reasonable person, so I did. The next morning I get the run around again. We offer to move to another hotel and emphasize that we will NOT be staying in our room with a view of a dumpster for the remainder of our trip. I was told to come back again at another time.
I had been playing very nicely so far. My default mode with any conflict is to collaborate first. However clearly working together holds no weight here, and I needed to be flexible. A new, more firm approach was required. After all, I am not only now upset, but also wanting to model standing up for yourself to my kids!
So before heading back to the front desk again, I wrote a review of our hotel for Trip Advisor, complete with pictures of our hotels’ “Island view”. I didn’t post it, but brought it with me. I politely asked again to speak with the manager. They told me AGAIN they had no rooms and there was nothing they could do- confirming that from their perspective, there was no room for collaboration. So I asked them if they would like to add anything to my review that was one click away from being published on Trip Advisor and showed it to them. I also informed them it would be going to the major travel agencies in our area. It was all done politely, respectfully, and firmly.
Guess what! SUDDENLY, THEY HAD ROOM FOR US!!!! Shocking right! Since they didn’t have one seconds before! I WAS SOOOOOOOOO MAD!!!!!!!!!! (But ofcourse took the room, which was better -it actually had a view of a garden this time). Still SO ANGRY!!!
OK, so here is the thing. I have told that story to a number of people since, and many, if not most, have made comments that went something like…”I don’t think I have it in me to be a jerk like that- good for you!”. This is a pseudo-compliment at best, but the part that I find most upsetting about that is that my politely and respectfully standing up for myself, communicating that I matter and deserve to be treated with respect, was repeatedly labelled as being a jerk.
This is a problem because it makes it seem like I was in the wrong for saying- “this is not what we agreed to, this is not acceptable, fix it”- even when I did it in a respectful way. I only used a more heavy handed measure, that was still entirely honest and transparent, when they refused to work collaboratively with me to find a solution.
The take home message that sends is that I am not supposed to matter, I am not supposed to rock the boat. It sends the message that I need to keep other people happy and not upset others AT MY OWN EXPENSE.
Think of how many times in your life you have been given that very same message in hundreds of different ways. When we get upset at someone who was disrespectful, and they get mad at us for being upset with them for instance. Or when we are upset we didn’t get the job or the promotion, but are told to “suck it up” or instead get empty reassurances that they are sure we will get it next time- anything to stop showing emotion that is upsetting or distressing to others, after all, they matter more than us! At least that is the message we get from those types if interactions.
I wish my trip to the Bahamas was the only time I have heard this seen this story, but it isn’t.
It is natural for us to get louder, and more forceful when we feel we are repeatedly not being SEEN, HEARD or treated like we MATTER. Any time we feel invalidated, our fight or flight response gets activated. This doesn’t mean people have to agree with us all the time. It just means we need to feel like our point of view is being regarded as being as valid as the next person’s, based on our experiences and interpretations of the information available.
Sometimes people will act out in response to feeling chronically invalidated or like they are not being seen, heard or like they matter. They may have affairs, detach, drink, over-eat, etc- but even when it is handled constructively, respectfully and politely, standing up for ourselves is often seen as being a jerk or a bully.
We need to celebrate those who have the courage to stand up and say I matter, and help redirect those who get lost along the way and who try to do it in ways that are harmful.
Instead of labelling someone who is standing up for themself as a jerk, congratulate them!
In the meantime, if being called a jerk is the price I need to pay for treating myself with respect and living from a place of I matter- I’m in! ARE YOU?
And on the subject of celebrating people who are standing up for mattering,
I hope to see you at the Halifax Pride Parade at 1 pm today!