the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 73 Avoid Obnoxious People

Posted by themirrenlee on 13/03/2012

Avoid obnoxious people.

St. Teresa was some spunky saint!

Do you know who said that? St. Teresa of Avila. A saint, not a regular person like me or you: a fallible human being who is usually quick to feel resentment, or show anger. No, definitely not a run of the mill person who you might expect would say something like that, but a saint, who I thought would have said things like, “Turn the other cheek”, or “Do unto others, etc. …”; or something equally profound and patient when confronted by obnoxious people.

I’m not a Catholic, but I really admire the “spunky” saints, like St. Teresa. From what I’ve read about her, she was always getting into trouble for her outspokenness and rebellions, but ultimately they still made her a saint. Pretty cool.

When I heard what she said about obnoxious people, I was fascinated. She didn’t say, “Put up with them,” or “Understand them,” or “Be kind towards them” – none of this “They know not what they do” stuff that Jesus said. I always think to myself, “They know very well what they do, and they still choose to do it.” No, she just said flat out, “Avoid obnoxious people.”

Makes sense to me. Obnoxious falls in the “Toxic” Category of people, and I prefer, for my own emotional energy, to avoid that one. It took me many, many years to learn to practice St. Teresa’s advice. I always tried to “understand” why someone would want to be obnoxious towards me, and instead of expecting them to change – or go away – I’d look for ways I could make it easier for them to not be that way! Huh?!

From my years of coaching actors, my career advice sessions would so often turn into examinations of why they “allowed” a lot of family (in particular) and friends to be obnoxious towards them. Usually, it took the form of either actively, or even passive aggressively, trying to discourage them from their acting goals, because it wasn’t considered a “real” career. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel bad without your permission.” Which means that you ARE allowing obnoxious to happen in your relationships if it is.

Unfortunately, there is a great fear among people about calling others on their behavior, usually because it might end in either confrontation (oooohhhhh nnnnnooooo!) or a relationship break. Instead of feeling like a cleaning out of old energy, too often a break feels to many people like abandonment. That just requires a mind shift. The same with confrontation. It’s only confrontation if you are unsure about asserting yourself. If you are clear on what you want, you state your desire and leave it at that.

You are responsible for delivering the message – you are NOT responsible for how it is received.

I was reminded of this whole topic tonight when I happened upon an online interview show where one of the guests was a guy who used to be part of my stable of actors when I ran my own actor’s agency in Melbourne, during the early to mid 90’s, for 5 years. He had been with me for a couple of years, and he wasn’t very employable. However, I worked hard to get him jobs he could manage, even though I had to fight his arrogant attitude, which led him to believe that he was better than he was (much more common with actors than lack of confidence, let me assure you from personal experience!).

One day he said he was leaving, which I didn’t mind, but I had lined up one last job for him, so I asked if he wanted to do it before he left. It was a small corporate job, which are usually short training films for a company. He agreed to do it, and  all was done without drama (love those puns!). The director who hired him was a guy I’d done casting for over a period of years, and who had become a friend, which is why he rang me with a heads up to tell me that the actor had contacted him to ask for his fee to be paid directly to him – bypassing my commission. He said he was no longer represented by me! Not only was it a betrayal, it was also ridiculous because it was for such a small sum – around $50, as I recall. The director, of course, refused the actor and paid me on receipt of my invoice. (I had several actors on that job, and he knew I’d want to bill him all at once, which is why alarm bells rang when the actor contacted him separately.)

The kicker to the story? I found out the reason this actor was leaving me was because he had bought an existing actor’s agency from a guy who was retiring, and was going to be an agent himself! As it turned out, he was a far more successful agent than he ever was as an actor.

If they're Certified, avoid them!

Yes, his behaviour was obnoxious, but I knew that when I was representing him, and yet I didn’t tell him to go away. I put up with it until he was almost able to shaft ME. And I let it happen again and again – with “friends”, students, and especially family members, not to mention actors. (One reason I shut down the agency is I had come to dislike them as a whole so much from repeated examples of obnoxiousness, and I didn’t want to feel that way about my own lifelong profession which I loved with a passion.) I was awash in obnoxious toxicity.

I have made many great leaps of progress in the way I live my life, thanks to years of good therapy, coupled with a determination to no longer let people treat me badly. It’s a hard thing to do if you’ve been conditioned to think you’re not “allowed” to demand better treatment. I’m sure many people reading this know what I’m talking about if they had challenging upbringings. A child must be consistently and constantly cherished in order to grow up expecting it from others.

I called my son David, partly because it means “Beloved”, but also because David was a King (of the Jews), and my daughter Sarah, because it means Princess (and is also the name of Sarah Bernhardt, the great French actress of the 19th century). I broke the mold of my own upbringing by always reminding them, through word and deed, how important they were to me, and how valuable to the world. Not so they would become arrogant, but so they would become confident and assured of their worth.

That’s what I consider to be the real source of obnoxious behavior – a lack of self worth. A false sense of entitlement then takes its place, to cover up their underlying fear of not being “worthy” enough.

But you know what? I don’t care WHY someone is obnoxious anymore. I’d rather avoid them, which I do. It’s quicker, and less tiring, than trying to deal with them.

St. Teresa was right.

I’m just avoidin’ …

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