Limitless Monday: To Fight Or Not To Fight – When To Defuse A Situation


Limitless Monday – To fight or not to fight
Generally, when it comes to a fight, I like to be in the thick of it. I rarely shy away. I have to win. Winning the fight is important, but sometimes I accept that you have to ‘live to fight another day.’
The battle can be lost as long as the war is won. Playing the long game is an essential policy for success in all aspects of our lives.
I had a rare opportunity to reflect on this line of reasoning the other day which I want to share with you.
It all started as I stood in the local bodega waiting for my breakfast sandwich. I had only been waiting a few minutes when I noticed a co-worker enter the store.
At that point, intending to surprise him, I took two long strides and was standing next to my colleague within a blink of an eye. However, in doing so, a scruffy, heavily tattooed ‘gentleman’ who I had stepped around was not happy.
“Hey man….blah blah blah”
To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t understand a word the man said except that he was obviously pissed about something I had done to him. So I looked at him briefly and replied,
“Sorry, I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”
He continued, “Blah blah blah.”
“You are making no sense to me,” I said, as I dismissed him with my hand.
I did understand the next words that left his angry lips: “You will understand me ok when I take you outside!”
At that point I realized matters had escalated. They escalated further when a tall, overweight black ‘gentleman’ turned round to the disgruntled Hispanic man, and claimed I had done the exact same thing to him.
Shove him out of the way? Of course I hadn’t. I may have bumped gently into the Hispanic man, but I was three feet away from the tall, overweight fantasist.
Anyway, cut a long story short, I had to make a quick decision. Did I step back from the fray and apologize to defuse the rapidly escalating tension, or should I continue to ignore them and brush them both away dismissively?
I made a quick calculation.
I figured I was at the point where if I continued on my current route, there was a 60% chance of a fight on the street outside.
At that juncture there would be a few possible outcomes:
  1.  I would beat the irritant to an inch of his life and leave him bleeding on the street.
  2.  The Hispanic man would be joined by his fat friend, and I would have double the problem.
  3.  The irritant – and possibly his friend – would beat me to an inch of my life, and leave me unconscious face-down on the sidewalk.
  4. The Hispanic gang member would be armed with a gun or a knife, and I could end up dying over an egg sandwich.
  5. The police would arrest both of us, and I would spend time in a holding cell – losing a whole day’s pay.
None of these options, apart from maybe the first, seemed appealing. And even the first scenario had its downsides. The intervention of his new friend and/or the police being distinct possibilities.
I decided to de-escalate the situation.
I started by apologizing to the tall, large gentleman for offending him. I then turned to the original perpetrator and offered my sincere apologies to him, too. I exited the store without a scratch on me, although I was slightly irritated that I had backed down from taking the man outside and giving him a beating that I believe he deserved.
And therein lies the problem.
No one likes apologizing. We see it as backing down. We believe we are cowards, the opposite of our heroes on TV.
Jack Reacher wouldn’t have backed down. He would have knocked the guy out before the trouble-maker had even taken one step out of the store.
But there is a difference between fiction and reality.
The unbalanced Hispanic had said to me in his rant, “I have nothing to lose; I just got out of prison for killing someone.” In fact, that didn’t scare me; I have heard worse. But it made me think.
What would a wise person do…
Well, to start with, a wise person has something to lose. Maybe he has children, a wife, a good job, a business with employees that rely on him, an education, loving relationships, a bright and prosperous future, and a happy life which he wishes to protect at all costs.
By acting impulsively, all those positive aspects of our life are put on the line. We could lose them all with one wrong word.
Choosing conciliatory words rather than hostile ones can make all the difference. The big question is this: is taking a conciliatory approach a life lesson?
In some ways, yes.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, we generally shouldn’t avoid fights in life; we should embrace a battle and not shy away from confrontation. Our lives are full of battles and we should never flinch away from a challenge. Sometimes, however, we do have to choose our battles.
The boss who antagonizes you, the partner who treats you badly, the teacher who acts unfairly, the stranger in the street who shoulders you out of the way, the angry man in the car who cuts you up and gives you the finger. Sometimes it is best to bite our lip and bide our time. Reacting without thinking, contemplating, and calculating can lead to unwelcome outcomes. Success is built on planning and doing.
There is an exception to this, of course.
Let’s say I stepped outside and was set upon by my Hispanic foe. I would then have no choice but to defend myself. I would have no time to calculate the possibilities, only to ensure I exited the ambush with as few injuries and torn clothing as possible.
Of course, a wise man would avoid the kinds of people and places where these types of events are possible. Always remember, you have too much to lose. Stick to the plan.
Happy Monday!
Banner Image: Entering the ring. Image Credit – Attentie Attentie


Harry Maximillian

Harry is an author, coach, entrepreneur, comedian and a convicted felon. Harry was sent to prison for a financial crime where he spent five long years. Prison allowed Harry to realize the error of his ways. He decided to use his time productively and mobilize his extraordinary determination, dedication, drive, motivation and desire to focus on writing and the art of self-improvement. Before Harry’s enforced vacation he was one of the most prolific deal makers in the City of London.

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