We all cope with society in various ways. Some of us use our smartphones to avoid conversations with strangers; some of us prefer the Internet to face-to-face communications. We are individuals roaming through a sea of more individuals, and most of us actively try to avoid threats and pass the time as peacefully as possible.
I’m certainly one of those who avoids conflict and threats as much as possible. I don’t like to be in or near fights; conflict makes me VERY uncomfortable. Thus, I find myself using certain coping strategies to make myself a non-threatening individual, to dissuade people from trying to harm me, and to maintain friendships. These are not entirely selfless strategies; I often do these things to keep my own sanity (or what I have left of it) more than anything.
Below are the social strategies I find myself using all the time, to maintain my social role as a “helper” and a non-threat.
#1: Saying “sorry” all the time
I’ve done this for so long that it’s become an instinct. Any time anything happens, whether it’s really my fault or not, I end up saying “sorry,” either to express regret or to express compassion. The slightly twisted reasoning behind it: if I say “sorry” enough, people might understand that I commiserate with them, and thus are more inclined to see me in a positive light later on.
#2: Being helpful
If I help someone, I boost them up–as well as boosting my own feelings of self-worth. Helping that person may also lead to them having a positive memory of me, making them less likely to harm me or act against me in the future.
#3: Being emotional
Though it seems counter-intuitive, this is also a coping strategy. I had to dig a while in my consciousness for this reasoning, but from what I’ve been able to gather, becoming overly emotional means that others are moved to help me calm down, forgetting for a moment their own gripes with each other. (I have actually done this quite often in situations where a group needs to pull together to make it through–I somehow express the stress of the rest of the group, and we end up becoming a more solid unit as a result.)
#4: Forgiving quickly (or at least saying that I have)
If I forgive quickly, I am perceived as somehow a “better” person–though I confess sometimes that I can’t forgive as easily as the words spring to my mouth. (That’s a hard thing to realize about myself.)
#5: Staying quiet when I have a minor complaint
I don’t like to make a “big scene” and will stay quiet rather than being assertive. Reason: I don’t want to be seen as a nag or as a bothersome person.
What I’ve Learned from Exploring My Coping Strategies
All of the above strategies focus around others seeing me as someone they want to be around, someone they want to help, and someone that they look on with favor. This is related heavily to my experience of severe loneliness early in my school life, which shaped me more than I wish to admit. My way of dealing with threats, usually in the form of another person who is more aggressive, is to make sure they do not perceive me as a similar threat. Only then can I have some semblance of peace, since I have maintained harmonious relationships with them.
Coping strategies are the unconscious tricks we all use to maneuver in society, but sometimes they don’t always function the way we intend. One reason I posted this is because I have to dig into why I act the way I do in order to change the malfunctioning strategies–for certain, I can’t go around the workplace crying every time I feel threatened!
Learning about our inner emotional workings is a freeing and somewhat disturbing experience, one that has helped me get a better handle on who I am and who I am becoming. Try it for yourself–what’s really making you act the way you do in certain social situations? You might just learn something really interesting about yourself in the process!