At the pants store.
Yesterday I went into a store that I frequent every so often to by myself a new pair of pants. I’m at the point now where I’m aware of the mild anxiety I continuously feel when I’m going to go into a situation involving other people, and asking for what I want.
The salesman was nice enough but he was also very abrupt, and a little pushy. Again there was nothing wrong with the way he behaved, he wasn’t rude or being negative in any way, it’s just that he was used to taking the lead and telling people what to do.
The theme of this blog is fear of anger, which I have, and so I continuously fear getting into a confrontational situation. That means I’m afraid of making the other person angry or simply getting angry myself.
That fear, for those reading this blog for the first time, comes from having an angry father and feeling a sense of impending doom, or very large amount of anxiety, in the presence of anger.
So he comes over to help me and I tell him I’m looking for a pair of jeans or casual pants that fit comfortably. He walks right over to a rack of jeans and starts telling me that these particular ones are what I’m looking for.
I wanted to give him more information on the type of pants I wanted before he walked away, and so I felt a little bit of anxiety before speaking up and giving him the rest of my request. The anxiety at that point was that he had already made up his mind, and had expended energy by walking over to the rack, and now I was having to tell him “no,” and that I’d like him to get something else for me.
I did so and that felt okay. He didn’t skip a beat and went right to another rack and told me that I should try it on. Once again I wanted something different to what he was asking. I wanted another pair of pants and a different style that I could take with me into the change room so I wouldn’t waste my time going in and out.
I told him this and we found another pair.
I went to the change room and the first pair didn’t sit quite right so I asked for a different size. He told me that it wouldn’t make much difference because of the cut of that specific brand etc. But I still wanted what I wanted, so I asked him if he could still get one for me anyway. He did, I tried it on and it fit much better.
At this point I started getting a little more anxious thinking he’s likely getting tired of me not listening to him and not doing what he wants.
I took that one pair of pants along with two T-shirts to the cash where he was waiting for me. He ran up the total and I saw that the prices of the shirts were double what they were advertised. He told me that I had read the label wrong and he was correct.
So now I needed to make another request. I had to ask him to void one of the pairs of shirts from the total he had just run up. He did and then asked how I wanted to pay.
This is where I wasn’t able to assert myself anymore:
What I wanted was to pay half in cash and half on credit, but I found myself paying purely credit because I thought that he would think it would be much easier if I just tapped the machine instead of having to have him input to different payments on the computer.
After I walked out of the store I realized that the reason I was too anxious to ask for what I wanted was 1) because I wasn’t as aware as I needed to be of what I was feeling, and 2) because I was afraid that by me constantly in negotiating with him, and saying no, and asking for what I wanted, that I was bothering him.
I was afraid that with each request that I had, he was getting annoyed and that it was only a matter of time before he exploded. I see this with lots of people. They get a little ticked off and then a little bit more annoyed each time you do something, but instead of saying anything they hold and grit their teeth. For me that’s like seeing a volcano getting close to eruption.
Looking back I don’t think that that’s what was happening with him, but it’s a conditioned response in me to fear annoying people too much, or even asking for what I want as often as I need to.
But here’s the kicker; even if they had exploded and got very angry, the worst that would’ve happened was that we both would’ve been very uncomfortable. My anxiety catastrophizes doom scenarios, it warps my thoughts and exponentially increases itself so that I feel the end of the world is coming if someone gets very angry.
It’s good that I was aware of all this, and next time I’m in a situation that’s similar I’m going to push a little further until either I get what I want fully, or I shut down at a different point that’s hopefully further along than where I had shut down at the pants store.
Who knew that buying pants would turn into an opportunity for psychological growth?
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