I kinda hate conflict.
Ok, I really hate conflict.
It’s unpleasant, I end up not saying what I mean, I know intent on both ends gets skewed, and it’s hard for me to control my face from giving a “you are such a moron” look.
Hate it as I do, conflict is still necessary and I admire people who do it well. I also admire people who stand up for themselves amid conflict. That can be hard for me, and sadly I think it is for a lot of women. But please know that there’s nothing wrong with being assertive. Case in point:
For the last two months we have been dealing with mold in our apartment. Nasty. Thick, black mold you could probably brush. Let’s just say that our apartment complex paid lip service and did a minimal amount of work to remedy the situation. When I asked that a professional come out and inspect the apartment to make sure it was gone, you would have thought I’d asked for a visit from the president or something. All sorts of explaining to me how mold works (which they doesn’t actually know), how it’s not their responsibility (false), that the mold isn’t that dangerous (throat punch), and we could move to a new unit but the one that’s available was bigger and we’d have to pay that rent (not a chance).
It makes me mad just writing about it. I spent weeks telling these people to get my apartment inspected and they kept saying they had to get in touch with the property manager first. Then I’d never get an answer back.
Fast forward to about 6 weeks into this nonsense.
I was using the employee bathroom and I could hear one of the female administrators chewing somebody out on the phone across the hall. It was amazing guys. From what I gathered, she had received a faulty product that they weren’t willing to fix for free. She wasn’t screaming, but she definitely had her voice raised and was telling them about their terrible customer service and that they would not ever order any other products from them and they’d lose the entire district’s business. My thoughts were, “Oh I am so glad I’m not on the other end of that phone call,” and then, “I need to take her to my apartment complex with me.”
I was inspired and decided to go to the property manager myself. I called and emailed her what had been going on, what I was requesting, and pictures of the nasty mold infesting my baby’s room.
She never replied.
So then I got mad and put on my big girl pants. I called again on a Sunday and left a message telling her how unacceptable it was for her to ignore me and that I expected a call from her tomorrow. Well, I got a call the next day, but it wasn’t from her. She had the office call me back to answer my question, which was not the question I had even asked. So irritating. On Tuesday I finally got her on the phone. After a heated phone call (in which I discovered where the office staff learned their incompetence), she finally said if we were so unhappy then she would let us out of our contract.
All I wanted was an inspection, but I got even better than that! They’re totally only doing it so they don’t have to discover how much of the apartment actually needs fixing, but it’s a win for Katie! I’m definitely reporting them after we move out; the poor souls who move in next should have a safe place to live.
The next day at work, I knocked on that administrator’s door and told her of my little experience. She looked slightly embarrassed, but proud too. She stood up, walked with me to my desk and told me about how being a female athletic director can be challenging and sometimes she has to get into “that mode” in order to be taken seriously because she’s not around to get everyone’s coffee. The whole time I was thinking, “Is she mentoring me right now? Bring it on, sister!” It was a fun conversation that built my respect of her.
Though there were “Who else can I be mean to?” jokes afterwards, I still don’t like conflict. I didn’t like feeling like the bad guy, even though I was right. But I did like being taken seriously and actually getting what I wanted. I’m so glad I got to hear that woman be assertive when she needed to be, because it helped me have courage when I needed to be. Not name-calling or being rude, but making my disappointment and expectations very clear and not backing down to condescending replies. When it comes to keeping my family safe, I’ll gladly be called all the names I’m sure I was called after every phone call to that office.
If you have something you have been hesitant to be bolder about, take a deep breath and go for it! Look at the strong women around you for encouragement. Repeat after me: It’s okay to be assertive!
Or, you can repeat after Cool Runnings:
Now go get yisself some! Rad ‘90’s sweater is optional.