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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confessions of a beta male VIII: When someone yells at you

One of the clearest divides between personality types is illustrated by how they react to being yelled at. People always react instinctively in this situation; when someone yells at you, you are definitely in the moment.

One of the telling differences here is not just between alphas and betas, but between alphas and guys who think of themselves as alphas. Guys who like to think of themselves as alphas are generally just narcissistic personalities, and narcissists inevitably become angry when criticized. When actually yelled at, they become filled with rage and yell back.

This might on the surface appear to be alpha behavior, but in fact a real alpha would be so sure of himself that he would be unaffected by someone else's criticism -- or histrionics. He might laugh, as most adults would at a five year old throwing a tantrum. Or he might just be quietly amused.

I, as a beta, do neither. When someone yells at me I tend to cower in fear, and wonder why they're so angry. Then I wonder what I can do to mollify them, and whether they will ever like me again.

Sometimes others' anger at me is justified, sometimes not. But I tend to react the same way: what did I do wrong?

Next time someone yells at you, don't give him the satisfaction of either getting angry yourself or being cowed. Just act completely unaffected instead. Pick up a nearby apple and start munching on it (no one eats while upset). Or laugh at him, as if they are being cute. Even better, look as if you are trying to stifle a laugh. Those are the most eloquent ways of letting him know his opinion means nothing to you.

It occurs to me that my previous posts on this subject -- alphas vs. betas -- conflated narcissists with real alphas. Their behavior does overlap sometimes; then again, so does that of alphas and betas.

Perhaps the best way to put it would be to describe how each type reacts to criticism, whether or not it's delivered with a lot of volume. A real alpha just calmly analyzes it, and decides based on facts whether it is warranted. A narcissist angrily dismisses it as untrue, whether or not it is. And a beta tends to assume it's true, whether or not it is.

Of course, much of how you react to yelling has to do with how used to it you are. If you are in a combative profession, and encounter unpleasantness on a daily basis, you will be less fazed by it, whatever type you are.

If you're the one who usually starts the unpleasantness, though, you're probably a narcissistic personality yourself.


Anonymous said...

I came across this site after encountering a frightening incident where I, for the first time, had my life threatened by a raging violent man. Apologies if the scenario is different, but there seems to be the same concept of how to deal with fear and be courageous at the same time. I live with 4 housemates and one of them refused to stop slamming doors at late hours, waking people up. None of us wanted to confront him since there seemed to be a dark anger surrounding him, making the outcome seem likely bad for any admonishment. Finally, as a reluctant leader, I politely but firmly stated this cannot go on. I was on the receiving end of threats and a violent outburst of rage…pretty much like I feared.

This happened recently, and I struggle with how a leader and a man is supposed to handle it. I firmly replied, “You and I are done talking” and walked away. He kept of yelling and threatening as I went back into my room, as 2 friends he brought over held him back. Though part of me feels this may have been giving in, I’d like to hear any perspective you may share. I did what I think most wouldn’t have by standing up to him, and then I refused to get into a fight, and I stood firmly before walking away. But part of me is still very uncomfortable with how he seems to think he won, even though he is now moved out of the house (and landlord and police were notified). I feel violated of sorts, but a leader has to take garbage sometimes and stand firm. Any suggestions on how to feel better/make sense about this is appreciated.

John Craig said...

Anonymous --
You did exactly the right thing. (BTW,if you take a look at the other posts in this "beta male" series, you'll see it's usually not entirely serious, but you've asked a serious question, so I'll answer you seriously.)

You're right: you did more than a lot of people, including your housemates, would do. This guy you're dealing with is not a real alpha male, by the way, even though he obviously sees himself that way. He is at the very least a maladjusted narcissist, and possibly even a sociopath.Chances are his mother didn't love him and/or his father bullied him, and he has a lifetime of maladjustment to show for it. Why would you want to get involved in that?

I wouldn't push him any further without enlisting others, either your other housemates, the police, or the landlord. Otherwise you have to be ready to get into a physical fight with him (foolish) or use a weapon against him (even more foolish, as you will then have a record). Next time you see him, if he is threatening, ask him, "Are you threatening me?" He will probably say yes, in which case you have reason to both complain to the landlord and report him to the police. If he has this dark aura surrounding him and was so ready to get physical with you, he is probably known to the police, and he probably realizes he can't afford to get into trouble with them again. And don't worry, the cops are normally pretty good at sorting through who the bad guy is in a situation like this, especially when one of the parties has a record and the other doesn't.

As far as your macho pride goes, forget about it. Nobody's sense of machismo ever did them any good outside of a sports competition.