In the Blog
Advice Column: Advice about not taking crap, and doing it with grace
You can view the video here on this page or on YouTube. A transcription is below the embedded video. Feedback is welcomed! - ed
Advice about not taking crap, and doing it with grace with Sarah Mangle and special guest, Sarah’s Mom, Jane Mangle.
Sarah: Hello Everybody! Welcome to the Shameless Blog!
Jane: Hello Everybody!
Sarah: (Laughs) This is my mom, Jane Mangle, and we’re on vacation together in Newfoundland, and she’s agreed to be my guest of honour for the video blog. Thank you so much for coming!
Jane: Oh, you’re welcome! My pleasure.
Sarah: I invited Mom to come because she is better than anybody else I know about not taking crap from anybody and doing it with great grace and warmth at the same time.
Jane: That’s very kind.
Sarah: It’s true! So, what I wanted to do was instead of doing an advice blog where I talk directly to you guys, what I’m going to do, is interview my mom, about how to stand up for yourself and do it with dignity and kindness. That’s the question. So, she doesn’t know what questions I’m about to ask her (laughing).
Jane: No, I don’t.
Sarah: (laughing) but I have four questions and I’m going to just ask them.
Jane: All right.
Sarah: And then we’ll go from there. So, when someone like a landlord or a phone company or the hydro bill is treating you badly, and you’re not getting the service you need, what should you do?
Jane: Well, you should address it directly to them.
Sarah: How should you do that?
Jane: You should call them or go in person, with something in writing, to leave there with them and be as clear as you can to say what you’re unhappy about and tell them that you will be continuing to talk to them about it until you’re satisfied.
Sarah: That part at the end I think is a really big key.
Sarah: The persistence, to not stop.
Jane: You don’t stop until you’re satisfied.
Jane: But you also, you can’t go storming in angry and erratic and hard to understand. You have to be calm and clear and honour yourself and know that you need, you’re a customer that’s paying them, and they have a service to provide you, and if you’re not satisfied you need to let them know and most times they’ll be a good person at the other end there that will listen to you and make it right.
Sarah: It’s good. Do you have an example?
Jane: I have an example of a situation, well, a landlord situation that involved you, actually.
Jane: You were quite young at the time, it was your first apartment, I needed to co-sign the landlord agreement -
Jane: and so I did, willingly. And shortly after that, a few months into the lease, I get a registered letter in the mail saying that you’re not getting your rent there on time. But I was also aware that there were things that that landlord had not honoured in the agreement, like fixing broken things in the kitchen or making sure that things were in better repair all over the apartment and he hadn’t done that. I was aware of that. So, when I got the registered letter from him saying I needed to get the rent to him on time because you hadn’t, I wrote him a registered letter right back and said, “No I don’t, because you’re not honouring your part of the contract and so therefore you’re not going to get any money, until, not just late money, you’re not going to get any money until you make this apartment what you said you were going to rent to her.” And that was the end of it. I didn’t get anymore letters. And I believe you got things fixed.
Sarah. Uh huh. How do you not be afraid?
Jane: There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Jane: There was nothing, in that situation, it was clearly a contract being broken. And he thought it was being broken against him, and we saw it that it was being broken against you, and it didn’t leave him any place to take it any further because he knew that we were right.
Sarah: That he was at fault.
Jane: Yes. And it was easy to prove because you just have to walk into the apartment and see the mess.
Sarah: Yeah (laughs).
Jane: That one was pretty easy, like, I didn’t feel threatened.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.
Jane: And I didn’t think that it would be of any threat for you either because I had been to the apartment –
Jane: And I had seen it.
Sarah: Uh hmm.
Jane: So that one, that one was fine. That was pretty clear.
Sarah: When someone in your community is saying things about you that are not true, what should you do?
Jane: You should go directly to that someone –
Sarah: Uh hmmm
Jane: - and, first of all, ask them why they’re saying these things, perhaps, what is it that’s, what is it that’s, uh, provoked them to want to speak that way about you. And, you may find out that it’s clearly a misunderstanding or you may find out that there’s an underlying reason that that person is out to get you, or whatever. But I wouldn’t let it go. I would go to them directly. Face to face. And if you’re uncomfortable going face to face then write something down and have it delivered to them.
Sarah: Do you have any examples? That’s maybe a too personal one to ask.
Jane: I don’t know that I –
Jane: Well there, no, there have been, there have been incidents where in neighbourhoods where neighbours are being bothered by neighbours, and, yeah. There are, I don’t want to name that specifically, but –
Jane: There have been incidents where I felt that I was being, excuse me (coughs) pushed a little too far and then asked to not be the pusher (laughs) in the other direction and I said, “That’s not okay.” Like, “we’ve reached our limit here. It’s not okay.” You’re going to be like that, I’m going to be like this. But mostly, it was just saying, “Okay. Let’s just name the things that we’re aggravated by and get them looked after.” That sometimes doesn’t always totally resolve, but sometimes that quiets things down.
Sarah: Yeah. Sometimes things are never resolved, I guess.
Sarah: What’s the most effective way to stand up for yourself?
Jane: The most effective way to stand up for yourself? The most effective way to stand up for yourself is to be there yourself. Be present. Don’t send somebody else.
Sarah: It’s very good advice.
Jane: And ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen. Honestly, if you’re feeling threatened or unsafe then you should take somebody with you, always. If you’re going to be in a meeting that you think is going to be uncomfortable and you’re trying to affect some change and you feel like maybe you’re going to be in the room with a bully-type of behaviour person, then you should definitely have somebody with you.
Sarah: Uh Hmmm
Jane: And you should definitely have somebody note-taking. Maybe not you, if you’re going to be in dialogue, but somebody with you who note takes. Obviously you have to clear that with the person you’re going to be meeting with, because it’s not fair to that person either for you just to arrive with somebody else -
Jane: - without them knowing ahead of time.
Sarah: Uh hmmm.
Jane: So you tell them you’re gonna to be bringing somebody else with them, and invite them to bring someone else with them as a note taker and a witness to the dialogue that is happening. Not to maybe speak for you, or instead of you, or to jump in and fix anything, but just to be there, to note-take, and to keep the room safe and anytime that it doesn’t feel safe or it’s going in a direction that it shouldn’t go, then that person reminds you that you can end this meeting at any time.
Sarah: That’s great.
Jane: And then you have it documented what was said, and no one can deny it. What I did at one time, at a meeting that I thought was going to be difficult, when I thought it was, so I invited someone to come with me, they took the notes, after the meeting was over, we gave them a copy of the notes that we wrote in a letter form we wrote, here’s what we think we agreed to, in our opinion what we agreed to, and we’d like to give you a copy and we want you to sign it and we’ll sign it to say this is really what happened at the meeting. I did this, and had the letter delivered to the place of business it was, and the manager of the business who was in the meeting signed it to agree that is what we had all said and agreed to and I asked her to keep a copy on file on file and to give a copy to her boss and about a week later I got a call back saying, “He’s telling me you can come pick up this letter. He doesn’t need it.” And I said, “No, I have my copy, he needs to keep - ”
Sarah: That’s his copy.
Jane: He needs his copy. If he wants to destroy it, that’s up to him, but I’m not taking his copy.
Jane: I’m keeping my copy.
Jane: He has his copy, I have it documented, and if he wants to take steps to change anything that we thought we were agreeing to change, then that’s up to him, I’m going to do what I said I would do, hopefully he’ll do what he said he would do. That particular situation involved a long-term care facility where my mother was living. Some things improved after that meeting and some things did not. So, we kept making steps in that direction we were trying to go.
Sarah: But what I like about that story is that you didn’t call the police or you didn’t the legal system but you set up your own structure so that you could have accountability and people don’t necessarily need official systems to document the things that they’re doing.
Jane: No. Not unless you really feel that you’re going to be put, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Jane: Physical, or emotional way that you feel that you need the protection of those people who are qualified and trained and in the authority to, you know, to protect you. If you feel that, if you really feel that threatened, then you should have –
Sarah: Yeah. But what I mean is I think that sometimes people feel outside of the system and everything feels a bit messy. So then they don’t, they don’t write a letter because they think, “Who am I to write a letter?”
Sarah: You know? And you may things official and that’s –
Jane: I think it always has to start with -
Jane: if it involves you, you have to start from there.
Jane: And just take the steps that you know how to take.
Sarah: Yeah. But you made steps to do and I think that that’s really cool. Yeah. And the last one I just have is advice for shy people. For people that these things are not easy and they feel easily overwhelmed or confrontation is difficult. What advice do you have for those people?
Jane: I think if you’re shy you should practise.
Sarah: That’s a good idea.
Jane: You should practise with people that you care about and that you feel safe with and that you trust, and you can make it fun. Just practise, put yourself in a dialogue situation and pretend and just see how that goes. I used to be a pretty shy person myself.
Sarah: You were?
Jane: Yes. And –
Sarah: (laughs) I didn’t know that!
Jane: Yeah. I was. I would always find reasons not to do something because I was afraid of what might happen. Somewhere along the line, I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the line I realized I started to ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
Jane: And if I imagined what’s the worst thing that can happen would be and then I would think, “Well, I think I can handle that,” whatever that worst thing would be.
Jane: well then there’s nothing to worry about. If the worst that can happen is such and such, and I could deal with that, well then, lets go forward.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.
Jane: And usually you find out that you’re tougher than you think. Especially when you get results.
Sarah: (Laughs) And you have got results!
Jane: Yes I have.
Sarah: (Laughs) you’ve helped me with a lot of things. Yup. In particular the hydro one time. Ontario Hydro.
Jane: Oh yeah. That worked out, eh?
Sarah: That worked out.
Jane: That’s good.
Sarah: Yeah. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Jane: No, well, maybe, just remember that we’re not here alone.
Sarah: Uh Hmmm
Jane: And probably in you’re in a dilemma somebody else has been in that kind of dilemma before you and just start talking to people about it and ask and you’ll find that there are similar stories and maybe some answers.
Sarah: Great Mom! Thanks very much.
Jane: You’re welcome.
Sarah: This has been the Shameless Blog, with Jane Mangle special guest and until next time, see you later.
Sarah & Jane: Bye! Bye!
Columnist’s note: I just want to point out that my mom and I disagree about the role of police officers and how much safety they have the potential to provide. My opinion is different from my mothers here. The differences are nuanced, and best saved for another time when we can fully get into it.