Monday, March 17, 2014

What's Wrong With Whilona?

In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of being assertive and disregarding others' opinions. However, there is an extremely fine line between standing up for yourself and being rude. Today I had an experience with the latter, and while it was quite alarming, I still learned a thing or two that I'd like to share.

During art class, right after lunch, I was chatting with friends, working on a new project, and generally just doing normal art class things. I like the class a lot because the atmosphere is very supportive and people are always commenting with helpful tips on how to make something better. I appreciate the feedback, but if I don't like something, I usually respond with something along the lines of "That's an interesting insight" and thank them for the comment.

The girl that sits next to me (who I will refer to as Whilona) was doing a painting involving random squirts of paint on a canvasboard that were all mixed together. Whilona was never a person I looked up to in artistic talent or morals, and while at times she was annoying, I did not quite hate her. I glanced at her work and mentioned that I thought she could add some more white paint in a certain area (to achieve a greater sense of balance). She muttered something back that I didn't catch, so I repeated my comment. I was shocked when she snapped back with something to the effect of "You know what, I don't care about what you think." Perhaps I should have felt hurt, or angered. But the overwhelming emotion I encountered was confusion.

Was my comment that mean? Was my tone of voice too harsh? Perhaps I said something else that wasn't very nice? The suddenness of it all left me with no response. I shrugged it off and continued in my work. A few moments later however, she got up and practically yelled in my face, "If I want your opinion, Carol, I'll ask for it," and stomped away. I was quite taken aback. I left class ten minutes later extremely confused and also in a bad mood.

I discussed this strange occurrence with another friend not long after. She suggested that Whilona might have just had a bad day and was sensitive to criticism. To me, it still seems like an unjustified overreaction, but at least I know not to ever talk to Whilona in art class anymore. More importantly, I will remember that it is very easy for the moods of others to affect my own mood, so I should stay away from sour people.

Most of all, while it is good to be assertive, doing so does not come at the expense of being polite. The concept of a boss "bitch" is not a standard. There are many ways to say "no" to someone without offending them. The person that you're interacting with who may come off as rude might be experiencing a bad day as well. It is always a good idea to be considerate, and always a bad idea to be brusque. I know I'm not perfect, but I'm working towards that ideal.

Don't be a Whilona.

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