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"Don't waste yourself..."

In his book, The Warrior Within, author John Little relates a story told to him by Bruce Lee’s attorney, Adrian Marshall, in which Lee and Marshall were having lunch with Hong Kong film producer Raymond Chow at an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles. During the course of lunch, the trio was served by a jerk of a waiter who went out of his way to be rude to Bruce. He spoke in a derogatory and condescending manner to Bruce, who, to Marshall’s surprise, simply smiled at the man and totally ignored his rudeness. When Marshall finally asked Bruce why he put up with the waiter’s attitude, Bruce replied, “I came in here in a great mood, so why would I choose to allow someone to ruin it?’”

Some people, for whatever reason, seem to take joy in trying to provoke or offend others. They love nothing more than to see if they can draw some kind of reaction from the target of their attack. I’m sure that everyone reading this has experienced it at one time or another in their life. The choice of how we react is up to us. We can get all upset over it and respond (usually in a negative way), or we can choose to maintain what Lee referred to as our ‘detached cool’ and deal with the situation in a much more effective manner.

If you simply ignore them and refuse to respond, eventually they will either lose interest or run out of energy and give up and leave you alone. By refusing to engage the other person, by saying nothing and in some cases, calmly walking away from the scene, you remain completely detached from the situation and refuse to give them what they want, which is some form of attention and interaction. Whether you choose to talk to them or not, the message your actions convey to the attacker is very clear, "How does your action affect me? It doesn’t. I recognize that you are attempting to draw a particular reaction from me with your attack. Well, forget it, because it’s not going to happen. I refuse to play that game, so don’t waste your time and energy.”

When someone speaks to you in a disparaging or condescending manner or fires some form of verbal attack at you, take a moment to size up whoever is attacking you. Who is this person? What’s their relationship to you? Do you have any reason to fear this person or situation? Is there any need for you to prove yourself to them? Does their opinion really matter to you?

Size up the situation. Ask yourself, “Is this situation any kind of real threat to me? How can it affect me? How much does it matter to me? Is this matter even worthy of my time and energy? What purpose will be served by me becoming disturbed by the actions of this person? How important is it in the larger scheme of things?

I am not suggesting that you maintain a detached attitude in every situation. There may be instances in which a person crosses a line and needs to be reminded of who they are and what they are doing, etc. But for the most part, if we’re honest, most of the verbal attacks made against us are not worth wasting our time and energy to address and are better off simply being ignored.

Honing our ability to maintain our detached cool does not necessitate that we need to become a super-aggressive person, or someone who is cold and aloof. In day-to-day relationships, effective countering is not about winning and losing. It’s not about being the “victor,” or dominating or retaliating against another individual. It’s about effectively dealing with actions made against us by someone else, and not allowing force being exerted against us to have its desired effect.

While we might not have any control over who chooses to attack you, the one thing we can control is our own attitude and our reaction to the attack. Just because someone throws down a gauntlet doesn’t mean we have to pick it up. We can choose to leave it on the ground. Don’t respond or react to useless or insignificant verbal attacks such as derogatory comments or condescending remarks. Don’t expend your time and energy on them.

Instead, choose to maintain your ‘detached cool’ by simply smiling and ignoring their rudeness or condescending remarks. Tune them out. Life’s too short. Send them a clear message -- "Don't waste yourself."

(Some of the above material was drawn from my book, “Liberate Yourself! – How to Think Like Bruce Lee” © 2019 Chris Kent)

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