Bullies come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes, the smallest things can set them off and lead to physical altercations. Continuing with the theme of this month, ‘What to Say and Do When You Don’t Know What To say and do’, this article is about how to handle such situations without physical confrontations.
Fahad Comes Home
The year was 2017 and the month was October. A friend of mine, who was working in the UAE at the time had come home – Kottayam (our hometown in the state of Kerala, India) – for his annual vacations. I’m going to call him ‘Fahad’ and he was in many ways, my first official client!
He had put on some (what we like to call) ‘gulf weight’ but more than that he was having a hard time at the office getting along with his colleagues and his clients because of his temperament. I spent a week with him, every day, as he shared some of the situations that he had to deal with and I was able to give him some perspective on what was happening, why it was happening and how to handle it.
A week later he felt a little more positive and decided to make a few changes. One of the more significant ones was his decision to lose some of the weight he had gained. So, every morning he would put on his tracksuit and his headphone and go jogging for about 8-10 kilometers. Some of the (older) locals found the sight of him jogging around with earphones extremely funny (and they were really used to seeing people like that) and would occasionally call out to him, wishing him a good morning!
Now, Fahad was never the type to go looking for a fight. But he had a temper and this is a story about how to handle such situations.
Fahad Get’s Annoyed:
The ‘good mornings’ and the snarky comments started to get to him. But he kept his cool and focussed on his jogging until one day one of them stood in his way and asked him to take off his earphones. This guy was presumably the alpha of the group, as the other three seemed to be hanging back behind him.
Fahad did take his earphones off and decided enough was enough. He calmly asked alpha, ‘Why don’t you mind your own business?” drawing upon the irrationality of Alpha’s actions and directly accusing him of how obsessed he and his group was with Fahad.
Alpha was flustered by his response, as he wasn’t expecting it. He immediately felt the need to assert his dominance or lose face in front of his ‘gang’.
So Alpha immediately went for another angle. “No! I was just saying that instead of listening to music you can enjoy the sights and sounds of your immediate surroundings. Your generation needs to appreciate what’s going on around than being stuck in your ‘internet world!’
The Situation Escalates
Fahad knew that he had to put a stop to this today or it would only get worse. “But how is it any of your business?” Again emphasizing on how stupid Alpha sounded and indirectly asking him – who the hell are you!
Embarrassed and starting to feel like a complete moron, Alpha kicked up his lungi and tied it around his waist securely. (For those of you who don’t know what that implies in an argument – things are about to get extra serious!).
He started yelling at Fahad trying to bait him into a fight, “You think you’re some big shot that we’re supposed to be afraid of? That we can’t speak to you or look at you?”, as he marched towards him with his fists enclosed.
And that was the reason they were picking on him. They were jealous and insecure of Fahad. Maybe it was his clothes, his will to try and lose weight, the way he carried himself were all a reminder to alpha and his gang that none of them could be like him. So picking on him was their way of feeling better.
Fahad Takes Control
Fahad stood his ground and maintained continuous eye-contact with Alpha as he neared him.
Now in a fight, the first person to initiate it makes a quick assumption whether he/she can take down the other based on how the other person reacts. Doubt, fear etc. will manifest as facial expressions as the situation escalates.
By being calm and maintaining eye contact, Fahad communicated (non -verbally) that he wasn’t going to back down, he wasn’t scared of alpha and he was going to take the bait. It would have taken a special kind of courage on Alpha’s part to physically engage Fahad, after having seen his reaction. And let’s face it if Alpha had that kind of courage he wouldn’t have been so petty!
As Alpha neared him and saw Fahad’s complete reticence to the situation, it made him stop and wait for Fahad’s reaction as Alpha was the one suddenly feeling doubtful of himself! Fahad further asserted his dominance by calmly telling him that it wasn’t his responsibility nor any of his business to mind what Fahad chose to do or not to do.
Alpha blinked at him, stupidly and try to make one last desperate attempt by saying, “If you didn’t want to take the earphones off you could have said ‘no’.
The Final Punch
Fahad smiled at him (almost in pity) and asked him as calmly as ever, “Why?”
A simple question that conveyed enough to say that Alpha was a nobody to Fahad. He wasn’t important enough to respond to, which left Alpha feeling completely worthless. And through his words, his action, his reactions, and responses, Alpha had inadvertently proved Fahad right.
He could no longer maintain eye-contact with Fahad like an equal.
He wanted to run, he wanted to hide, but his friends were watching him. So, instead, he took a few steps back, turned around and started cussing him out to his friends and to anyone who was watching.
Fahad having realized that the fight was over and he had won, calmly inserted the earphones back into his ear and continued with his jog.
The next day as he jogged past them, alpha turned his face away, too ashamed to even look at him as did the rest of his gang. Fahad smiled to himself, knowing that he had finally found a way to control his temper and win respect.
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Originally published at Bebee