A cable broke on the exercise equipment while I was training my triceps.  This caused me to fall backwards and the bar hit me in the forehead.  No biggie, I rubbed my head a bit and went for a glass of water.

When I went back to the equipment a gym attendant came over to me with my can of beer, and angrily asked if I that was my beer and if I was an alcoholic.  “Oh yes, that’s mine, thank you.”  I took it and placed it on a safe spot on the ground and went back to work.

A few moments later he comes up to me again and tells me that I have to leave, because I was drinking.  I laugh and touch his shoulders, and in a friendly way explain that the cable breaking had nothing to do with my beer.  He insists that I am being kicked out.  Ok, so now he’s serious.  I look at him in the eye and say “No.  If you want me to leave you are going to have to fight me, and throw me out.”  He keeps asking me to leave a few more times, and I just go back to my workout.

I’m not a trained fighter, and the guy was much bigger than me.  If he chose to fight me he certainly would have won.  But I would have fought, and he’d have felt as many blows as I could land.  There was no malice or intimidation in my voice when I told him “If you want me to leave, you will have to fight me”, but I expect that my micro expressions contained what I meant by the word “fight”.  It would have been a scene, at minimum.

Later he comes back again.  He’s annoyed, and he’s got another guy with him.  He tells me that I HAVE to leave NOW.  I calmly look at him in the eyes, and simply say “No.”  No fuss.  No argument.  No drama.  Just no.  “You were drinking here!”  “If you don’t like my beer here, just throw it away.  There was no sign here saying I could not bring in a beer.  Are you the manager?”  “No, I’m an attendant here” “Go call your manager”.

At this point his friend grabs him by the shoulder and walks him away.

I calmly finished my workout, for another 45 minutes or so.  Wandered over to the water cooler where the staff work at least 5 times.  Shared turns on the equipment with fellow gym patrons.  I felt unusually strong that day.

As I walked out I shook his hand and made sure that we were both still friends.  He agreed that we were.

I’ve mentioned before that being a boss makes you feel like an authority.  The gym attendant originally felt that he was the authority over “his” gym space.  He felt it was up to him to keep proper decorum, and one can of beer was way out of line.  If I did not have many years of continuously being in the position of authority, I may have also assumed that he was the authority in that situation, and thought it natural to comply.  Or I may have felt challenged, and my blood pressure and adrenaline would have rose, and I would have considered the situation a contest of wills and a threat.

I did not consider it a contest of wills or a threat.  I simply gave him the option.  “If you want me to leave, you will have to fight me.”  When he asked me to leave through force of command only, I calmly looked him in the eyes, and with no threat or malice, simply told him “No.”  I felt no fight inside me.  I did not feel insulted.  I did not feel like I was threatening him.  It was not a negotiation.  It was simply “No.”

I believe that being self employed, and having many staff, changes a persons self conception, to the point where their level of stress hormones stay low during confrontations.  You just start to see yourself as the boss.  Apparently that carries over outside of the workspace.