Have you ever been called infuriating?
I have – many times – “You are the most infuriating woman I’ve ever known!”
Even though it was meant to belittle me, I take it as a compliment. My reply is simply “Thank you.”
The scenarios in which I’ve been called infuriating are always the same – a man is trying to intimidate me.
Years ago, I was hired into a company that had just bought another company. A female manager I supervised who had been part of the old company wanted my position. She was very upset she didn’t get it. She rallied the other male manager I supervised to fight her battle for her.
God, was he obnoxious!
He openly threatened me, challenged me and refused to do things according to the new procedures. Together they spread rumors that I was incompetent. But I didn’t back down. So one day he came into my office and went off.
I just sat back in my chair, looked at him and said “You need to leave.”
After several weeks, I finally got clearance from HR to discipline him. I called him into my office and stood in front of my desk while he sat in a chair. I explained the problem and told him that he had to either get on board with the corporate changes or I will force his departure.
I told him the choice was his: “Get on board or there’s the door.”
He started to yell at me. I didn’t react. I simply repeated and motioned “Either get on board or there’s the door.” That is all I said. I probably said it five more times before he screamed “You are the most infuriating woman I’ve ever known!”
“Thank you. Now you need to use the door and leave.”
A few weeks later, I went to his office to give him an assignment which I knew he would challenge. I stood in front of his desk and told him what needed to be done. As I expected he challenged me. Then he did a body language power play.
He pushed back in his chair, leaned way back and opened up his chest, arms and legs – you know the position. He was trying to make himself look really big and intimidating.
But there was just one problem.
The way he was sitting back pulled his pants really tight across the crotch area leaving nothing to the imagination. And right there, front and center, was a hole just below the bottom of the zipper. I could see his tighty-whities through the hole. I started to laugh.
(All these years later this image is still emblazoned on my brain!)
I choked down my laugh. But all I really wanted to do was bust out hysterically!
To regain control, I put my hands down on his desk and leaned over to hide my face. Every time I lifted my head I saw the hole and started to laugh. I then had to lower my head again. It seemed like I was positioning myself to stare at his crotch. This made him so uncomfortable! (Yes, I enjoyed that part of it.) Eventually he sat back up and folded his hands in his lap like a demure little schoolboy.
As I turned to leave his office, he once again said, “You are the most infuriating woman!”
I looked back at him, let out a big smile and proudly said, “Yes I am.”
He soon used to the door himself and found another job.
I learned that the best response to a man intimidating you is to be infuriating. Do nothing. Don’t engage. Just look at him.
Let him stand there and act like a jerk. Pull out a nail file and do your nails and look at him as if to say “let me know when you are done embarrassing yourself.”
Just because a man is trying to dominate and intimidate who says we have to respond?
When men try to intimidate each other they engage in a battle for power – who is going to come out on top. That’s what men do. But we are women. We don’t need to engage, we don’t need to play the game, we don’t need to go into the Blue Zone.
So, don’t advance. Don’t retreat. Stay where you are – don’t act or react based on their behavior. Show their behavior is powerless.
Take a line from Macbeth – “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” I have mumbled that line countless times listening to men go off. There is power in thinking this way.
I love being called “infuriating.” To me it is one of the greatest compliments about my personal strength.
Empowered women know the power of being infuriating.
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