You’re in a crowded bar. Some dude bumps into you and spills beer all over your clothes. Everybody notices (including him), but he doesn’t apologize.
Your reaction says a lot about who you are as a man, and it may not be what you think. It’s not whether you do nothing or demand an apology or apologize yourself; it’s what the action means to you and whether it’s consistent with how you actually feel. Let’s examine:
Your reaction: Confronting him
- When it works: Calling the guy out is the right move when you truly are annoyed – and make no mistake – you’re entitled to feel annoyed. He may apologize, and that’ll be the end of it. He may try to escalate the interaction, and as long as you don’t let that waver you, then he’s the one who looks bad, not you.
- When it doesn’t: When you don’t really want to create a conflict but feel pressured by everyone else to say something. You’ve just let other people dictate how you behave and are no longer in your own power. The person who reacts this way is easily influenced by others and is masking some kind of inferiority complex or insecurity.
Your reaction: *PUNCH* *PUNCH*
- When it works: Basically never. Maybe there’s a scenario where you have to project strength in the prison yard to avoid a beating, I guess, but if you’re ready to throw hands over something as petty as getting a little bit of delicious beer on your clothes, then you need to take up a hobby and get that stress level down. Unless this guy is targeting you intentionally and it’s the third time, just dial it back.
- When it doesn’t: Virtually every single time. There are a couple of flavors: Either you didn’t want to but let peer pressure strangle you so hard that you were willing to fight about something pointless, which is weak – or you really wanted to fight about something so insignificant, and you’re completely insane. Whatever the explanation, no. Just no.
Your reaction: do nothing
- When it works: When you legitimately DGAF. You are so carefree, so secure with yourself as a man, that some punk refusing to apologize over spilled beer doesn’t even show up as a blip on your radar. You’re just too cool for school, and when everyone sees that you’re already back to what you were doing before, they will follow suit, and everyone can move on with their lives.
- When it doesn’t: When you’re internally upset and are unwilling to verbalize it. We’ve seen this guy before. He’s all sour about something but is unwilling to say it aloud to keep from rocking the boat. It’s inauthentic, for starters, and it also smells like someone fears the consequences of speaking up. Plus, I’m no doctor, but holding all of these emotions in has to lead to health problems or something. Just let it out and move on. Rock that boat. We’ll all feel better, and the world won’t come to an end just because you spoke up.
Your reaction: Playing to the crowd
- When it works: When it defuses the situation without supplicating yourself. When the person doesn’t apologize, let’s say you just turn to the bartender (and the room) and make a joke like, “Hey, can you turn up the lights in here? Apparently people can’t see where they’re going.” You just effectively took the spiller’s power away and shared it with the bartender and everyone else in the room. You didn’t get overtly hostile, but you sent a message. Maybe you have a future in politics.
- When it doesn’t: Let’s be honest – playing to the crowd can go terribly wrong. If you get a little chippy say something like, “Get this kid some training wheels,” people may think you’re a tool, and if you don’t handle a defusing joke with confidence, it may look like you’re asking everyone else to bail you out of this mess. In those instances, you didn’t take the spiller’s power and share it with the room. You just gave him more power. If you’re going down this road, make sure you have the presence to pull it off.
The through line of this article – if there is one – is pretty straightforward: confidence and perspective. With these two things, you can do just about anything in this uncomfortable scenario, and it’ll turn out fine. Without them, you’re doomed no matter what you choose. So, ask yourself, are you prepared for conflict? Can you keep a problem in perspective without making it into something bigger? Do you have the self-believe to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be? Answering questions like these honestly is the first step on your way to the good life.