“It is beneath my dignity to exchange words with you.”

Sometimes we find ourselves in everyday situations where we wish we could have had a moment to prepare. Situations where courage and words fail us, and we’re left with a gnawing disappointment over the way we acted. Linda Lagström is the communicator at Kull Leadership. This is her story about one of those everyday moments. /Margareta Kull  

 A couple of weeks ago, I was traveling by train between Stockholm and Helsingborg on the X2000. I had the seat for myself and was offered coffee and cupcakes as the landscape passed by. A few rows further down in the carriage sat an older lady. I had seen her on the platform. She had an elderly gentleman by her side. They kissed each other tenderly goodbye and she thanked him for following her all the way to the train. It struck me as just so sweet.

While passing Norrköping, I heard that same older lady speak again, this time explaining loudly to the ticket collector, that it was beneath her dignity to exchange words with him. Wait a minute…Did I get that right? Did she refuse to speak to the train staff? That was apparently exactly what she did, as he now hastened away through the aisle, the nearby passengers silent, squirming and clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation. “It’s beneath my dignity to exchange words with you.”

I do not know if it was the man’s profession that rubbed this elderly woman’s self-esteem the wrong way leading to the derogatory comment, or if it was his non-Scandinavian colouring that challenged her authority. The motive does not matter. What matters is that despite my wish to get up from my seat and loudly protest her outdated view of humanity, I said nothing. I sat still. Silent. Just like everyone else in that carriage. Why?

Because I was afraid. Afraid of being made to feel small, mocked and ignored. Maybe we all thought it was useless to make a fuss over someone that speaks that way. Maybe we hoped that someone else would speak up – someone sitting a bit closer, someone more eloquent or more courageous. However, we all remained silent.

Don’t ever let silence be an option.

A child mocked on Twitter by a member of parliament. A woman denigrated by a future president while the whole world is watching. A man loudly patronised on a train. All these situations must be met with anything but silence. I must promise myself that next time I will dare. Dare to be courageous enough to stand up to those who would degrade, humiliate and mock others.

Why?

Because it is beneath MY dignity to let them have the last say.