Hugh Laurie had to work with a literal lion once, and his first question was obvious: what to do if it attacks me? the answer is both funny and insightful:
So, Laurie was filming this documentary that featured these fluffy-maned killing machines, and at some point he had to literally be filmed pretty close to one of them.
The little detail that rang his internal alarms is that the filming crew was conveniently wrapped inside an iron cage, while the Dr. House star was going to be out in the open, next to the animal.
He asked the specialist on set, in his usual British humour tone: “How can you be sure he’s not going to attack me?”
The South African in charge of the animal cast replied, “Well, we make sure that the lion has sex to take the edge off”
“I’m not worried about a… ‘randy’ lion, I’m more concerned about the eating part”, insisted Laurie.
“Ah, we take care of that. We feed him, but not too much, because then he will want to sleep”
Laurie was not convinced. “Oh, that’s great. That’s like popping a chips can and giving him just one. He’s going to want some more!”
The South African couldn’t contain his laughter, and the comedian pressed on. Finally, he got the answer he wanted.
“Look, if in spite of all this the lion still charges you, just reach out for some excrement and throw it at his face”
You can imagine Laurie’s face. After a short pause, he replied: “Oh… shite. Understood. But where am I going to get the shite?”
“Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty”
The fact is that we are being ‘chased by lions’ all the time. And wolves. And sharks. And I’m sure you can guess I’m not talking about the animal kingdom!
But even so, they’re in sheep’s clothing, most of them. And the more interactions we have with people on a daily basis, regardless if it’s online or in person… the higher the odds we’ll stumble upon one of those.
You can realize pretty quickly the analogy with Laurie’s anecdote: some of those lions will still be a threat even if they have been taken their ‘edge’ off (momentarily), and eaten a couple chips from the can.
Because you thought that will appease them, and leave you alone. But no. They become either offended or more cruel. Yeah, some people are just jerks. They won’t eat you, that’s a given, but they can make your life miserable.
Each situation is different, but there are three tips that will help you:
– Identify who are their true allies (and yours): You can never face one of these toxic personalities on your own. It will always be an unfair ‘fight’. The first thing you must do is to assess who’s on your side (or at least, not on theirs) and who do they count on their team. That’s the first step to playing human chess.
– Pay close attention to their shifts in emotional states: As random as they can appear, how people’s emotional states change can reveal what’s important to them, what upsets them, which situations trigger negative responses, which circumnstances calm them down, and so on. In fact, this is something that you should do with everyone, but you could get overwhelmend rather quickly. Try to focus this time on the emotional bully so you can decipher at least one part of their psyche.
– Define what’s YOUR preferred way of approaching the problem. Some people will have an easier time tackling the issue head on, face to face. Others (such as myself!), we prefer to operate in a concealed way. A mix of both is also an option. But whatever you do, make sure your strategy first fits YOUR style of dealing with conflict. There is no right of wrong of dealing with these circumstances as long as it’s the one that fits your personality and values. Having said that…
– Never discard a way of reacting that forces you to learn additional skills. As I mentioned, I had trouble facing people head on and telling things to their face. This is something that I had to learn, and that’s why I forced me to develop that skill. Yes, I prefer the concealed way, but it’s important to have options for any circumstance.
You can also join my Body Language and Persuasion Masterclass to unleash the ability of reading people, decipher their behavior, and if needed, neutralize their influence on you.
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Much Love and Bliss,