A fun little fact before we begin this article: This image that I’ve chosen above was actually the first Unsplash image I ever used. I used it for the homepage photo for my online clothing store that I first ran back in 2017. The original site is no longer up, but I still remember using this photo like it was yesterday.
The Story of the Day
It was a chilly, sunny day, and I was waiting at a bus stop to get home from work. It was abnormally crowded due to the buses not coming like they were supposed to.
Enter, the strange dude carrying a pink wig in his bag.
He was there, standing to my right as I was facing the street. I looked past him towards the direction the buses were supposed to be coming from, and then I looked back at my phone, scrolling through my choices of tunes.
“Hey, why are you angry?”
I looked up to find him staring at me. You could say his gaze was less than cordial.
“Huh?” I said.
“Why are you angry? What’s the matter?”
I was confused. I had given this man no indication that I wanted any trouble nor had I even looked at him. “I’m not angry,” I stated.
“You’re like, squinting at me, giving me this mean look,” he went on.
Yeah, buddy, it’s called the Sun, and when light from the Sun is pouring down on my naked face, I tend to need to squint. You ever notice that yellow ball in the sky?
My sarcastic internal dialogue was begging to be let out, like a playful dog on a leash when they see another dog.
Anyway, I don’t remember the rest of the dialogue verbatim, but I do remember some specific things.
- He insulted my American accent and said that “You guys (as in Americans) ruined English and can’t understand me.”
- He made fun of my eyes for “looking lazy” and made a rather derogatory face in imitation.
- And finally, when I didn’t give him the reaction he was looking for (probably for me to swing first or to back away, all scared of him), he started to act friendly towards me.
That’s right; I didn’t buy into what he probably wanted me to do. No fight broke out, and I walked away unfazed when my bus arrived.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
How to Win a Fight Without Being a Part of It
I’m going to start this section off by saying something that can save a ton of people a ton of trouble:
The best fight’s not the one where you win. It’s definitely not the one where you lose.
It’s the one that doesn’t happen, because when a fight is avoided, you also preserve yourself and keep yourself safe. You stay out of legal trouble as well as avoid potential consequences to your health.
Trust me, I totally get the satisfaction you might feel if you beat down on the guy who put you down. I totally understand how upset you might feel when somebody wrongs you or taunts you, as well as the temptations you get when you want to get even with them.
But by de-escalating and deflecting the threat of physical conflict, you win for the reasons I just listed above.
You also win in the event that this person was trying to rile you up and get a rise out of you, just like how this guy was most likely trying to do to me.
You’re just doing what they want if you take the bait. By not taking the bait, you show that you’re better than that. You’re confident in yourself and you aren’t going to let their petty words knock you down.
In this kind of situation, you beat the game by deciding not to play.
One Way to Temper and Harden Your Ego
The only way you can truly walk away from this kind of situation unfazed like I did is if you build up enough internal self-esteem to where you aren’t affected by some random person’s words.
It might sound like an easy milestone to reach; after all, this is just a random person on the street trying to hurt and provoke you, and these words aren’t coming from someone you actually care about.
But reaching that point is easier said than done, because this random person also holds no previous bias against you.
You might think that their criticisms and words carry more weight because they can judge you without really knowing who you are. Their opinions can seem more impartial and objective.
You need to know who you truly are and what you’re capable of. Find ways to test your limits and push them, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Sit in a quiet room and think about the good and powerful things that make you, you.
Maybe you’re generous, thoughtful, and kind. You help others in your spare time. You think of great birthday gifts.
It might sound cheesy in practice, but taking some time to really think about who I am is what worked for me.
This is not the same thing as being blind to your shortcomings and pretending you’re perfect. You’re not. Nobody is. Everybody has something that they can work on.
But you can build up your confidence without being arrogant.
Another Thing to Keep In Mind
Let's just take a look at the things this guy said to me and break them down. I’ll write them again here so you don’t have to scroll all the way up.
- He asked me why I was angry, probably to provoke a reaction of violence (or to escalate to that point) or fear. I wasn’t even angry, so trying to tell me that I’m something I’m not is not something that I can even afford to entertain. It doesn’t apply to me, so don’t try to drag me into that frame. I was having a pretty great day thus far actually, and after the incident, I still did.
- He expressed disdain towards my American accent and said that Americans ruined English. Everyone has an accent, and ok, you don’t like mine. You’re entitled to feel that way, but that’s not my problem. And the second half of that is such a broad and preposterous statement that I won’t even go into it. I don’t think I have to explain why.
- He made fun of my eyes. I can’t change the way my eyes look and I don’t really think there’s a problem with them. You should know that appearance-based insults like this one are in a low, low league of their own. Few insults are as petty and as ineffectual as these ones. I almost laughed when he did this.
Notice how these things didn’t affect me because what he said either:
- Was blatantly incorrect, obtuse, or petty.
- Attacked something that I couldn’t change or didn’t care to change.
If someone tries to provoke or insult you with something that falls in any of the above categories, you don’t even have to think about what they’re saying, because trying to devote brain power to this class of insults gets you nowhere.
You’re Not Weak Because You Walk Away
People have this misconception that if someone walks away from a provocation or insult, they’re somehow weak or cowardly. They were “too afraid” to make a stand for themselves.
In some cases, yes, someone might be scurrying away from a conflict because they’re afraid. It’s a survival mechanism.
But there’s a difference between “scurrying away” and “walking away,” the latter of which I did. I chose not to escalate the conflict, nor show the guy that I was scared of him, and I wasn’t.
Maybe your ego will be bruised if you “scurry away,” but you get to live to see another day. I’m not saying bullies should get a pass for how they treat you, but a fight that doesn’t happen is still a win, whether you scurried or walked away.
If a fight absolutely has to break out, because the attacks turn from verbal to physical, then yes, show the attacker you’re not to be taken lightly. Make them regret ever laying a hand on you. Put an end to all the future fights with this one.
This is also why I recommend people train in some kind of practical martial arts like I do. Practicality is important because if you need to physically defend yourself someday, you’ll need to depend on your training to make it happen.
If what you’ve been practicing isn’t practical, then you’re toast. We don’t want you to be toast.
Training martial arts comes with other benefits too, like building up your confidence (because, surprise, you know what you’re capable of, and that builds self-esteem) and keeping you in shape (which in turn might make you feel better about yourself because you’ll be more fit).
So if a fight opportunity presents itself and you choose not to engage in it, that doesn’t make you weak. Train enough and could probably flatten the guy if you wanted to.
And resisting the temptation to hurt someone who may very well deserve it can be one of the most positive life-changing habits you can build.
Ask some of the people in prison if you don’t believe me.