Let’s set the scene.
22:35pm. December 3, 2014.
San Francisco, CA. Unnamed bar in the Mission District.
The streets are soggy wet from the seasonal rainstorm and I am standing outside smoking a cigarette I know I should not be enjoying as my group of 4 male friends sip light ale from goblets and speak about security for financial technology. As I begin messaging a business partner from outside of my industry, my back is toward the wind and a man wearing a dark grey sweater with a logo on his back (red circle, white outline with a word in white cursive, featuring an apostrophe, angled up and to the right) walks up behind me and shoves his hand inside my crotch.
I am a trained brown belt who has also studied self defense. Philosophically, I identify as a pacifist and I do not personally believe anger is a real emotion. As I feel him push his way through my trench coat, time begins to move in slow motion. His muddy hand slides unspeakably inward like suffocating truth and I realize I can, in three motions or less, break 5 of his bones. I realize I can bloody his nose and have him on the ground. I realize I can have him clutching at breath under the force of my heel as I crush his trachea. I realize I can, but then, I realize I have received a message on skype from my male associate; the message reads:
“Tell me what time you want to schedule our meeting and tell me what you’re wearing if you want to talk”.
I realize I am hit harder by this message than the hands who have broken into my panties and I let the vagrant go without a scratch, although I do not, by any means, write this experience off.
We are prone to brush verbal violation under the proverbial rug as if words are somehow weaker than actions, however, while this business associate may have a heightened sense of culture, as well as society, intellect and the complexities of human interaction, this does not make him an innocent schoolchild in comparison to the mild rapist trolling the streets of San Francisco.
Why did my business associate think it was okay to send me this suggestive message? Why did this man on the street feel as though he could get away with violating me?
This is protocol.
My female friends who are executives in the valley have had their breasts palmed in elevators after investment meetings.
As a CEO who happens to have a XX chromosome pairing and is also a former model in a position of professional power outside of fashion or art, I am constantly challenged by paradigms I have always understood to be antiquated.
As a woman who grew up in a family of men, I consider myself lucky to have heightened awareness concerning the inner mechanisms behind male actions and emotional evolution.
As a woman who spent years as an actress, I have developed a keen ability to find truth in emotional subtext, a skill most people forsake and a reason behind many communication issues in business.
With my ability to decode emotional subtext, what do I seek to uncover to unlock truth and balanced resolution?
Tension and intention.
Tension is the heart of interactions fueled by power dynamics. We can should use this tool to create positive results.
Intention is the mind of interactions and we should seek to unearth the psyche to understand why people project what they project.
The wise listen to words unspoken.
The message from my associate was sent due to a primal desire to create energy around the idea of a physical interaction between us.
Had I ignored the situation, I would have essentially condoned it with inaction.
Had I responded to the situation by expressing offense, I could have put my deal in jeopardy which would effect my entire team and our revenue streams.
A tough situation. How did I respond?
“I’m wearing three turtlenecks, saggy oversized sweatpants, a mumu or two and a trash bag for protection. I’ll see you at 3pm.”
By exposing the underlying emotional truth and releasing the tension as laughter, I subverted the situation, allowed the curious male, who could have been joking, to play and I kept my deal as solid as a rock.
Tension is a magic space where greatness can happen. When we find an area with consolidated energy, ideas or conversation, we have the potential to jump at the chance to resolve this energy into our intended result.
In a male/female professional situation, truly, in any situation, tension can be transformed into any variant of ecstasy, terror, amazement, grief, loathing, rage, or admiration. By dissolving the tension into laughter and turning the experience into a joke, without feeling as though I’m brushing off something that is truly wrong, the tension resolved and the relationship with the person who is primally interested in a physical experience is leveled.
Let me be clear: If someone really crossed the line, I am in no way implying that a man or a woman should simply laugh the situation off. Be smart enough to understand when someone’s intention is getting under your skirt (or into your pants) and be wise enough to handle, transform and control the situation with grace, poise and utmost finesse.
Let me be clearer about the situation I was in: I do not hate men. I love men. I love women. I love coffee and freaky weird interpretive dance. The person I was speaking to who made this comment had no personal relationship to me, at all, and the context of our entire conversation centered around funding for an event my publication, my partners and I are putting together (I am the CEO of CoinTelegraph). This is why I was deeply shocked by the comment. Most people would not feel comfortable speaking to me with disrespect and/or in an uncouth demeanor.
Instead of shying away from an interaction where tension is consolidated, understand motivations, gauge the situation, make objective observations and move forward with pure intentions.
When I walked back inside to coolly and calmly tell my male friends about what transpired while I was outside for a smooth drag, their reaction was shock and my reaction was “well, I guess I should stop smoking”. This metaphor is resonant with the overarching idea behind this amalgamation of interactions. Bad habits we possess, whether smoking, flirting too far, unconsciously eating, drinking or speaking without thinking, transform our experiences in life, evolve our social circles, change and challenge our norms.
Thank you for reading. Please, stop your smoking.