Auntie SparkNotes: I Feel Awful When People Yell At Me
I'll get straight to the point - when people yell or get angry at me, I just can't get over it. I feel awful for days, or weeks afterward. To give you an example, just the other day I went to a concert with a friend of mine.
When the band started playing, we (along with most of the audience) stood up and clapped and were enjoying ourselves. After a couple of songs, out of nowhere I got a really hard tap on the shoulder, and an old man (at least in his late 60s, even though the band is much more popular with a younger audience) who was seated with his wife behind me got really close to me and yelled "Look, mate, if you want to stand up then go down to the f**king bottom where everyone else is standing up, but if you're staying here then sit the f**k down!" I was caught off-guard and was kind of stunned, and when I didn't react after a few seconds he growled "Right now!", as if I was a bad dog or misbehaving child.
It probably doesn't sound that bad, but he yelled it really aggressively and for the rest of the concert I had a really terrible time because I couldn't get it off my mind. It's now a couple of days later and I keep replaying what happened in my head and it makes me feel like crying. I keep wondering why he couldn't have just been nicer about it and politely pointed out that he wasn't getting a good view of the stage. I can kind of understand his frustration and why I was in the wrong, but it's his aggression that gets to me. Just typing it makes me feel terrible, and as I said earlier, any time anyone speaks to me like this and loses it at me I feel the same way. Auntie, what's wrong with me?
What's wrong with you? No! NO. NUH-UH! Screw that, dude: the question we should be asking is, what's wrong with the asshat concert attendee who went all aggro on a total stranger instead of just saying, "Hey, I can't see the stage; could you sit?" (And the answer is: I don't know, but whatever it is, I hope it's extremely painful and causes uncontrollable genital itching. It would be no less than he deserves.)
And the reason this upset you so much is that you're kind, and sensitive, and a decent human being, and these sorts of interactions are particularly poignant reminders that not everyone can say the same. Some people are nasty jerks by nature; some of them aren't, but still aren't above taking out a bad day or a bad mood on everyone around them. And the strange, terrible power of nasty people is that they carry their nastiness with such entitlement, so that non-nasty people end up feeling crappy about it for them. Which is totally unfair, but also totally normal. That guy at the concert wanted to make you feel small and stupid, and he succeeded. But the fact that he did doesn't make you a weird loser; it makes him a giant motherfranking jerk who doesn't deserve a single moment more of your energy.
But remember this, too: when people treat you harshly for no reason, it's their problem, not yours. What you get to control is how you respond, both in the moment and afterward—and when someone is flouting every law of civil interaction, you have every right to a reaction that ranges from, "Hey, there's no need to be rude," to "Go @$#% yourself if you're going to talk to me like that."
So, the next time someone loses it at you, see if you can't muster the courage to call them on their rudeness. Not just because you'll be doing the world a public service, and not just because it can stop a jerk in his tracks (rarely, but it happens), but because knowing you stood up for yourself in the moment is a great way to keep yourself from dwelling.
Do you get upset when someone's harsh to you? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.