‘If you would just let me finish, idiot?’ (Or: how to avoid the arena)

‘But with the greatest respect, I found your feedback unsubtle to say the least’

‘Sorry, but I’ve done my best to derive something positive from your proposal.’

You’ll recognise the situation: the conversation is polite. You don’t raise your voice and he doesn’t start swearing. Nobody needs to dial 911. But you know your relationship has cooled off.

Worse still: you’ve stepped into the arena.

You can deduce it from: rolling eyes, sighs, frowns, ignoring each other’s contributions and exchanging glances of collusion with the onlookers. Or from idiot remarks.

Idiot remarks?

These are sentences where the term idiot can be added to the end of, without changing its effect;

‘If you’ll allow me to finish,….’

‘Surely I can expect that…, …’

‘Luckily there are some people who can be positive,…’

What’s wrong with a bit of friction every now and then?

The arena is a change killer. The moment you step into it your intentions flip. Your intention was to move forward but the urge to rebuke is taking over.

You want to win.

The feeling of triumph when you win is exhilarating. But not for long. Because when you’re the winner, then the other person is automatically the loser. That damages the relationship. And as a result the other person is no longer open to your influence.

You win the battle but you lose the transformation.

But am I not allowed to stand my ground?

Of course. When someone puts you at a disadvantage, you have to do something about it. You are equally as important.

But as long as you remain angry about it, you are still standing in the arena. And it’s important you leave the ring.

The advice that people often give in these situations is: you just need to talk to each other. However that may prove dangerous because when you do that, whilst at the same time feeling the urge to reprimand the other person, the result is an even fiercer quarrel.

What you have to do when you start to feel angry?

Every confrontation is different. There are no fixed rules. On the one hand it may help to express how you are feeling, on the other hand it’s sometimes useful to take a time-out, and sometimes you may even feel the need to ring your solicitor.

In order to arrive at a solution which fits your situation, you need two perspectives:

  1. As long as I remain angry, anything I do will make the situation worse

To step out of the arena requires a certain amount of self-restraint. You can only achieve this when you are aware of the price you will have to pay when you don’t: you know you are going to regret it.

  1. As long as I remain angry, I am not aware of what I’m really feeling

Anger is the easiest of emotions. It keeps you from your deeper emotions such as anxiety, sadness, helplessness or denial.

And is that everything?

Yes. That’s all it takes.

Perspective 1 helps you to master your feelings and to step out of the arena. Perspective 2 allows you to research where the real problem lies.


Stay out of the arena when change is important to you. Acknowledge your anger and investigate what’s underneath it, so together you can move forward again.


I’m Annemarie Mars: speaker, author and advisor on change.

It is my job to get people thinking about the way they give room, direction and guidance to organizations in motion. So that they can look for the essential conversation to change together.

Want to know more about my presentations? Click here.

Photo credits: “Drongo” by VinothChandar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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