I have a friend from the South who made a significant statement to me the other day. In her charming demeanor, after listening to me rant about something that had aggravated me, she smiled and said, “Honey gathers more flies than vinegar.”
While I paused to think about it, she told me the story of her 87-year-old grandmother, who also grew up in the South.
Her grandmother, who we will call Frankie for the sake of this article, resides in an assisted-living facility. She lives on the ground floor with two other levels of apartments above her.
She has a small dog that she rescued about 10 years ago, and being on the ground floor affords her the ease of taking her dog for walks on the property. She keeps the dog in her apartment whenever she isn’t with her, and a number of other residents have their dogs living with them as well.
Unfortunately, a woman who lives on the third floor began to yell at Frankie whenever she took her little dog for a walk. Apparently a couple living a few units over on the ground floor has a rather loud, obnoxious dog that barks continuously, and the upstairs neighbor assumed the noisy dog was Frankie’s.
Frankie normally ignored the woman yelling at her as she went about her walks ... until the other day.
While our elderly grandmother was sitting quietly with her dog in her apartment, the woman from upstairs started pounding on and yelling at Frankie through the door. When she opened the door, the angry tenant got up in her face and began to swear at her, complaining about her noisy dog and the problems she causes.
Rather than yell back, get angry or defend herself, Frankie let the angry woman vent. Then, when the woman ran out of steam, Frankie opened the door wider and said, “Won’t you please come in so that we can go over your concerns?”
Surprised, the woman nodded and entered the apartment. Frankie then offered her a bottle of water and a seat on the sofa. Still somewhat taken aback, the angry woman sat down.
Then, Frankie introduced her little dog to the upset neighbor. At first, the woman held back, but Frankie’s dog is so adorable that she couldn’t help but pet her. After a few moments had passed, Frankie explained that her dog wears a bark collar to prevent her from making noise.
“In addition,” Frankie went on, “the couple two doors down has an unruly dog that often keeps me up at night.
“So you see,” she explained, “I’ve been dealing with the same problem as you.”
Then, changing the subject, Frankie asked her upstairs neighbor about herself, and they spent the next hour in a pleasant conversation, learning they had much in common.
And then, the truth came out. The woman was angry because she had just lost her own little dog a few days before she moved into assisted living. Her anger was more from her loneliness and frustration at the loss of her own dog rather than true dislike of Frankie’s dog or anything it had done.
At that point, Frankie suggested that maybe the neighbor could join her on her daily walks with her dog, and perhaps might walk her dog for her whenever she needed help. Then, the neighbor broke down in tears, and it was obvious to Frankie that what she really needed was a friend.
Sometimes anger is just a mask for what is really bothering someone. Frankie could have gotten defensive, angry and started a real feud with her neighbor. Instead, she charmed her, befriended her and extended an olive branch and a way to save face after the uncalled-for explosive behavior of the neighbor.
So it is with all of life. We never know the underlining motives for anger. Instead of confronting and making it worse, try a little charm. It wins every time.
Instead of making enemies, gather friends and supporters in life and work. Understand their needs, frustrations and challenges and offer a helping hand. Those well-made friendships will take you far further than enemies will.
And charm and logic will put you on the winning side of any argument.
— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the keys to life skills success. Click to learn more about The Key Class, or click here to buy his book. John’s new book, 74 Key Life Skills for a Happy, Successful Life, is currently available on Amazon. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook and follow John on Twitter @johnjdalyjr. Do you have a question about business or social etiquette? Ask John at johnKeyClass@gmail.com.