|Figure 1. Cary Grant does exactly what he's told to do.|
I've been operating under the "two phrases" nonconfrontational approach recently. Some things are worth fighting for or about, and some aren't. If the subject is the latter and is a low-stakes situation, I think of these.
The first is "a soft answer turneth away wrath." On a collaborative project recently, one longtime collaborator used some phrasing in an email that would normally have made me send a blistering reply. But it's clear we're all under a lot of stress with this project and that zie was feeling it. I sent a more diplomatic email and received an apology, where a blistering one would have made the whole thing worse. The length and strength of the collaborative relationship helped.
The second is from the movie Gunga Din,* which I don't think I have ever watched beyond the opening scene. In the opening scene, you're introduced to the three main characters, of whom Cary Grant is one, and they're all brawling with a bunch of other men (I don't remember why).
In the midst of the brawl, Cary Grant pushes one of the men to the window. A sergeant watching from below says, "Hey, take your hands off that man."
Grant does as he's told, and the man promptly falls out the window (but of course isn't hurt). He shrugs as if to say, "What? You told me to do it, and I did."
Here's how "take your hands off that man" is helpful. The hardest thing to learn as an adult is that (1) you're not in control of everything and (2) sometimes you have to shut up and let decisions that you wouldn't agree with take their course. Maybe things will work out.
But say you've worked hard on something, or informed someone of the likely consequences of an action, maybe a couple of times. The committee or person isn't listening. There's nothing you can do. What do you do in that case? "Take your hands off that man."
Obviously you need to continue to press your point if it's a high-stakes situation, but if not? Think Cary Grant and release your grip.
* (Yes, I know: racism, imperialism, colonialism, war, violence, etc. etc. etc.)