Not to long ago I was in a courtroom and the judge scolded me. I wasn’t there because I was in trouble. I was there to give her a statement; my two cents worth of information. When she didn’t like what I had to say, she interrupted me and yelled. It wasn’t the typical loud, in your face sort of yell. It was a restrained raised voice of someone who decided they knew better. Her yell implied, “I think you’re stupid.”
You could argue that it’s possible she did know better. Maybe I was wrong. I might even be stupid. None of that’s my point. The point is that because it was in her court room I had to take it.
Through her rant I tried to keep cool and continued to call her “Your Honor.” But my confidence fell like a stone. All I wanted to do was get out of there. When she let me speak again I wasn’t even sure what my two cents were anymore.
That night I looked at how this experience affected me. I suggested above that I was rattled. A damper was put on any intelligent thought I could produce. But that’s not the end of it. Understand that this berating happened at 8:30 in the morning (I suppose it was early for the judge too). It ruined my whole day. I also noticed that afterwards I felt lethargic…like, there was no lightness to my movements. A rock was positioned where my heart should be. All day long I replayed what happened and tried to figure out how I could have handled it differently.
I’m not saying this is the only time I’ve ever had someone yell at me. Of course not. My husband and I get into disagreements at least once a week. That’s different. We’re supposed to be equals in our relationship. If he raises his voice, I raise mine right back. That’s not what happened here.
The good news is that my writing is full of everyday experiences. What I do, see or feel often finds a way into one of my stories. It’s not only cathartic for me…it also adds reality to what I’m trying to convey.
In applying these feelings, I know how easy it would be to use. An authority figure will yell at my character and undermine her confidence. She just has to hear them out. No arguing…even though she knows she’s in the right. Numbness follows from her inability to fight back. How she works through it could (hopefully) be great for a storyline.
But then I put my own daughter in the place of that character. That’s not as easy to think about. Perhaps in her eyes I’m her judge. When I interrupt her, she has to take it. Of course she doesn’t call me “Your Honor”, but still…it makes me wonder. When I get loud for whatever stupid reason I think I have, does it affect her the same way it affected me? I have to assume it does. If not in the same way, maybe it’s harder for her because she’s still becoming who she’s going to be. My self-esteem should be tougher than hers.
I like to think I’m in touch with my younger self, but maybe I forget the influence someone in power can have. How that quick cut from above can leave us feeling less than we thought; a bit broken. It’s because of that broken bit that I wanted to write about this subject.
Normally I would just suffer in silence (well…maybe not silence because I’m rarely silent, but I certainly wouldn’t have put it in a blog). Not this time. This time I want to point out that we can do better. We all slip-up even when we have the best intentions. Sometimes in our mistakes we take others down with us. For me, when the haze after a blow-up clears I try to minimize the damage I’ve done. I apologize for any hurt feelings and try to explain why I got upset. So far, I’ve always been forgiven. I just hope that with that forgiveness the other person feels less broken.
That’s my two cents on yelling. Please don’t yell at me for it.