Being an everyday activist means always being on the lookout for ways to deal with difficult situations.
Last week, I witnessed an act of courage in the face of conflict. I was in awe as my stereotypes were shattered and I gained a new tool for dealing with toxic situations. Now I've got in my back pocket a new way to #ShowYourGlow.
Here’s how it went down.
(Heads up: This post will take five minutes to read instead of the usual one. I promise, it's worth it.)
I was vending at a two-day craft show with my cheerful, professional Redbudsuds booth.
Set up next to me was a vendor selling dollar-store candy and cheap wooden signs: spray-painted and sloppily-lettered, decorated with fake flowers, tied with neon bows, and covered in glitter. I remember wondering 1) how did they get into an art show and 2) who would buy that stuff. Apparently I wasn’t alone because I don’t think they sold a single thing the entire first day.
The next booth down was an artist (yes, an actual artist) selling slugs made out of sculpey (yes, that stuff you played with in 1st grade). To be exact, they were not just slugs but all kinds of little animals, sculpted to look like slugs. Everything from tigers to snakes to dinosaurs… and for Valentine’s day, all were holding adorable little hearts (why not, right?). Also for sale were the artist’s drawings of dogs and coyotes, because as it turns out, she owns a rescue coyote (of course). At least she was friendly.
This was not what I was expecting. That first day, I thought to myself: this could be a very long show.
On the second day, the vendor between “Coyote” and me decided not to show up. In her place, a friend of a friend agreed to watch the booth.
What was bad had just gotten a lot worse: this woman was toxic.
Rather than tactfully engage potential customers, she shouted to everyone who approached the area that “I’m not going home with any of this stuff - it’s all on sale for $1. And if that’s too much for you, just make me an offer. Everything has to go!”
Coyote and I were shocked.
We saw customers actively avoiding our area, only daring to come near if they were the type looking for a something free or nearly free, unswayed by craftsmanship or overuse of glitter (if you hadn’t guessed, this is type of person is not typically also looking for a thoughtfully clean Redbudsuds shower bar).
I felt myself clam up and start withdrawing into my shell, bracing myself for an impossibly long day.
That’s when Coyote came into her element and amazed us all.
Coyote saw what was happening and turned to the toxic woman, stating simply, “I bet it took your friend a long time to make all of this. It doesn’t seem right to fire-sale everything.”
The woman retorted, “Well I’m not packing up any of this stuff. We don’t have room.”
But Coyote persisted, simply repeating what we all knew was true. “I don’t think it’s right to sell off everything for so cheap when it clearly took her time to make it.”
Coyote continued with a solution, “I could literally pack up all of these things into a small package, using only what is already on the table. I could help you.”
Over the next ten magical minutes, the toxic woman’s tone softened as she went from shouting at customers, to only addressing them if they passed the booth, to asking us if we’d be able to take over the space when she left so there wouldn’t be a gap.
And with that, the situation was transformed. HOW DID COYOTE DO IT!!??
After the woman left, I applauded Coyote and asked how in the world she had the courage to face the woman. I was ready to give up, yet Coyote stood her ground. Here’s what she said:
#1: Diffuse the situation with something you can both agree on. In our case, that it took the absent vendor a long time to create all the work she was selling.
#2: Find a window of opportunity and run to it as fast as you can. By diffusing the situation first and then offering to lend a hand, Coyote brilliantly gave the woman an out that still allowed her to save face.
I’d say Coyote ran through that window of opportunity with fireworks and streamers.
The whole event left me inspired. The next time I’m faced with a conflict and find myself retreating into my shell to avoid discomfort, I’m going to try out Coyote’s strategy: find a window, diffuse the situation, and run towards the solution with streamers!
Click here to see a photo of Coyote’s adorable sculpey sharks. If you want one yourself, or want her to create a custom drawing of your favorite pet dog (or coyote) find her on Facebook @SheJackalArts.
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Have you found yourself in situations like this? What did you do? Was it effective? Did it flop miserably? What would you do differently? Let us know in the comments below or send me a message.
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Wondering more what Thoughtfully Clean Field Notes are all about? Read the the first post here.
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