“When you’re scared, you stay as you are.” ~Stephen Richards, author of Releasing You From Fear
Our world is turbulent. As I write this, we’ve just experienced the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Fourteen people lost their lives. Fourteen families lost loved ones during our holyday season. A six-month-old infant lost her parents. My fear of conflict pales in comparison to what these people and many others in our world face on a daily basis. And this is the opportunity that came my way while rehabbing my new home–something I set an intention to do with joy and equanimity.
I hired a contractor and then found it necessary to fire him because the work his employee was doing was shoddy. He was using equipment that didn’t operate well. When I told him I’d hired someone else to finish the job, he threatened to put a lien on my house or take me to court. I paid him what I thought was fair for the work that had been done satisfactorily. He wanted more. His threats escalated.
Conflict scares me so much that sometimes my teeth chatter as though I’m in a deep freeze. I recognize this as a disability because conflict is a part of life. Trying to avoid it as I do often has negative consequences. So I told myself, “Going to court my be an interesting new experience.” I reached out to friends for support.
They gave me good advice. “Make a record of all transactions, take pictures, and stand your ground.” They pointed out I had a good case and he was unlikely to follow through. But his intimidating texts continued. He pointed out how much it would cost to go to court. My hands began to shake, my stomach tied up in knots, I couldn’t go to sleep or I’d wake up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep.
To soothe myself, I’d say, “Linda, this is just your fear of conflict. You aren’t going to die and you’re not going bankrupt.”
I texted him back about mediation being a less expensive option. He liked that idea and asked me to set it up. I chuckled at that and texted him back, “If that’s the route you want to take, you set it up.” My friends and I didn’t think he would, but he did.
For me, it wasn’t so much about the money as it was maintaining my self-respect. I didn’t want to give in to intimidation. I needed to pull on my inner strength. I didn’t want to give this contractor the message he could get away with bullying women.
The woman from the mediation center told me I might hear something new in our facilitated conversation that would change my perspective, so I put my checkbook in my purse just in case.
However, the new information seemed to support my position. He’d fired his employee and admitted he’d been lied to about the job. He also said I’d been nice whereas other people he’s dealt with have been nasty. He offered to drop the whole thing if I paid him $200 instead of the $300 he’d asked for. It was tempting to accept just to be done with this.
When I didn’t accept, he returned to his intimidating tactics, noting it was time for him to learn how the small claims court system works. He asked the mediator for directions to the court building and left in a huff.
I went out to lunch with my friend who accompanied me for support. Despite being distracted by fear and uneasiness, we had a lovely afternoon.
The next morning another friend called to share her experience reporting a contractor to the Better Business Bureau. She encouraged me to do the same. I hated the thought of my complaint appearing on a webpage for all to see. Even though uncomfortable with her suggestion, I went to the BBB webpage to check out the procedure. When I read they wouldn’t be involved if there was litigation, I decided if I was going to do it, now was the time.
Early the next morning, the contractor began texting and calling. Interpreting this as more intimidation, my hands shook and my heart pounded. With a friend’s encouragement, I returned his call. He said, “Let’s drop this. Lesson learned. I see where you’re coming from.”
I asked him what he was able to see now that he couldn’t see in the mediation. He admitted his employee, whom he had trusted, used poor equipment and he understood why I hired someone else to finish the job. Perhaps seeing my complaint in writing did the trick.
This experience helped me grow in my ability to handle conflict and intimidation. I stood up to bullying…with a lot of help from my friends. For that I am grateful.
I can’t help but wonder for what bigger conflict this is preparing me.
If you tend to avoid conflict, I’d love to hear how you’ve learned to handle your discomfort. I’m sure I have more to learn.