Join the new campaign to find peace within and around you.
Part I: It starts here
(KATZRIN, Golan Heights) Ahead of launching a year-long exploration of how to Stand Up for Yourself and Listen to Others as you would have them listen to you™, I had to try out my own advice. I had to coach myself through a testy situation and not allow a person to dismiss my presence.
"The important thing is to address the behavior (disrespectful behavior of another) so you are not walking away with this feeling of failure,» says Veronica Rueckert, author of Outspoken: Why Women's Voices Get Silenced and How to Set Them Free. (More @RueckertTalks)
Standing up for yourself erases the question, What did I do wrong? You can instead ask, What responsible actions will I take to make my honorable intentions known? How will I, though I am in a disadvantageous position, stand up to get my needs met?
Experts on the topic of self-care, as well as laypeople from around the world, will share their thoughts on my social sites during the entire SUFY and LTO year.
After I interviewed psychologist Dr. Leon Seltzer in June, he signed on to help. He publishes the Evolution of the Self blog on PsychologyToday.com, and he says that people may silently accept the pain of an attack “if they feel they don’t deserve anything.” (More @drlee1)
When you Stand Up for Yourself, you stop absorbing blame when someone else's rude behavior sends the interaction with you sideways.
How often have you seen someone mistreat another person yet the person who is wronged apologizes? How often have you done that?
During the next year, consider that you will consistently put your best self forward while taking care to not steamroll anyone else’s well-being. That's following my principle of Listen to Others as you would have them listen to you™.
I am sun-soaked before visiting the Old City and the Mount of Olives
in Jerusalem in June 2019.
So, this happened to me in Israël … What would you do?
In June 2019, as part of a French tourist group, I made a mandatory visit to Golan Heights Winery. We were traveling by bus so there was no option but to stop with the group.
Twenty-two of us had arrived from France, deplaning in Tel Aviv and moving from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and other cities on a luxury tour bus. I’ll take you back with me to that day.
We disembark from the bus near Katzrin, where the tour begins pleasantly enough in the visitors’ center of the winery.
I join the semi-circle that is forming around a winery executive I will identify as Ruben. I immediately begin to wonder how effectively the English-speaking Ruben is communicating with the French-speaking travelers.
I sense a communication breakdown because twenty of the 22 people are older than 65. Today’s retirement-age French population has not focused on learning English.
I position myself near the outer ring of my fellow travelers. I’m intentionally standing beside a fun and engaging Parisian retiree who told me she had recently taken up English lessons. Another woman with whom I had been developing a friendship stands to my right.
Ruben points out on a map the various regions for growing grapes and the temperature variations. In a spirit of friendship with this new group of people, I translate the numbers our host gives. His explanation, using distances and temperatures, is numbers-heavy.
Since I work as a professor (in Paris) with students who are not native English speakers, I have a good idea of which expressions my tour mates are probably not understanding. If nothing else, I reason, the listeners can grab the gist of Ruben’s message by understanding the numbers I translate.
Ruben looks in my direction several times. Each time I send him an easy smile. I think he is non-verbally thanking me for filling in the information. I believe I am helping him.
Ruben concludes the comments in front of the map and invites the group to follow him to the barrel room. Before going in, he pauses in front of the entrance. He has climbed onto a second-story riser. Part of the group climbs to the top with him; another part stops on the stairs. I remain on the lower level with the same two women beside me.
I believe I'm helping my French travel companions to better enjoy the wine chat from English-speaking Ruben ...
until he tersely tells me otherwise.
Ruben continues more of the wine-making story and then asks for questions. Good-naturedly and lightheartedly, I offer: “For our French speakers, would you speak a little slower? Most of the people can understand English, but not when it is spoken rapidly and with so many numbers.”
Nothing had prepared me for the acidic words that come back at me.
“If you weren’t talking through the whole presentation, people could understand. Some people actually want to know what I am saying.”
We had both spoken in English, so probably no one catches on to the venomous reply, but my two new friends definitely pick up his tone and his bitter facial expression.
People on the second-floor riser look down at me, puzzled. They thought I’d meted out a nasty blast of words that triggered Ruben’s retort.
The French speakers turn away from me and back to Ruben, and they each follow him into the production room. I, however, have lost the desire to continue the tour. I labor to lift one foot and the next to walk along with the group. My mind is still reeling from the harshness of the host’s words and tone. I’m in a half-stunned state.
Once my mind catches up with my body, I realize that the latter is refusing to follow the group. Unconsciously, I halt myself possibly 10 feet from the stairs. I pivot out of line.
I’m on vacation. And I’m a guest here. How dare he attack me! my thoughts ring in my head. Doesn’t he know that I’m helping his audience understand him?
I have another concern: And to think I paid this tour company!
My two women friends, who had been trailing me—their skilled interpreter—throw me expressions of surprise when I freeze.
“No, I’m not going,” I explain to them. “I’ve had enough of this tour.”
My words—as I hear them aloud—sweep a coolness over me in the sticky 28-degree Celsius (82 degrees F⁰) weather. Those words rescue me from the thick, suffocating air hanging over me. I am gaining a measure of calm because I have decided not to stay in the same space with a man who has just verbally and unwarrantedly sniped at me.
Assuming impunity, our host Ruben commits his inglorious act in front of witnesses, to boot!
So, where do I go now? I think. How do I get away from any further incoming hits? How about the bus?
The bus driver has remained onboard with our valuables.
I could go there. And since it’s hot outside, he’ll have the air conditioning blasting.
I actually think of banning myself to the tour bus. All I know is that I need a place of refuge. There, on the bus, I can isolate myself from the insulting behavior of another.
I retreat through the winery lobby and out the front door, looking for the bus. But then, I am arrested by a thought—or, specifically, by a mentality: the mental toughness I learned at home in Augusta, Georgia.
Part II of the SUFY and LTO Campaign
Will you, the reader of this column, help me?
What should I do?
What is a way to honor the goals of Stand Up for Yourself and Listen to Others™ after an encounter like this?
What would you do?
More importantly, tell me how you responded when you faced a similar situation in real life. Think of a time when you were publicly singled out, or even erroneously accused of disrupting the pleasure of others. What winning outcome did you find for yourself?
Review my questions from the third paragraph (above) to get started.
I look forward to reading your answers and your suggestions about what I should have done. I will share your responses with my community. At the same, I will reveal to you how I acted in Israël to stand up for myself and to Listen to Others™.
I’ll share an installment of SUFY and LTO every 4 to 6 weeks, featuring your participation. I'm looking forward to this journey with you.
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And remember: I enjoy receiving your comments about my memoir, Civil Rights Baby: My Story of Race, Sports, and Breaking Barriers in American Journalism. Please send your comments to: email@example.com or post on your favorite book review sites. Read excerpts at nitawiggins.com, amazon.fr, and amazon.com. My social sites: @MsNitaWiggins, Linked In, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.