There was no margin for error. If you sent the wrong signal to the bullies, you would be targeted for life.
That communications mistake would be broadcast throughout the neighborhood. The yenta on the first floor of the duplex would catch it all from behind her shade.
Then she would yell up the stairs and tell her daughter in the apartment above. Gossip was the currency of that society. You bet, the daughter cashed in, big.
One especially effective approach was The Cold Shoulder. There was no ambiguity when you spotted your enemy walking toward you on the narrow, litter-cluttered sidewalk.
When you were near enough to the miscreant, you stepped off the sidewalk into the street. Then when you were away about four feet, you stepped back on the sidewalk. The yentas all caught that move. The miscreant became forever an object for ridicule. Some were forced to relocate to the suburbs such as Orange, NJ or the Jersey Shore.
The challenge was to reconfigure street into elite communications. Here is the guide for The Cold Shoulder:
No response is most powerful response. The person who did you wrong sends you an email offering apology. The O. Winfrey school of communications had it all wrong. No, don't offer to talk about it. Just don't respond. Ever. If the miscreant is at a conference, don't acknowledge his or her presence. Stare through them. No, don't smirk. That's a form of acknowledgement.
If you can't help but smirking or giving a dirty look, forgive yourself. When my former Seton Hill, Greensberg, Pennsylvania, classmate, Kathleen Huebner, entered Ralph's Hair Salon, Oro Valley, Arizona, I stared at her hard. Mistake.
She probably got it that she still had a hold on me. When I relocated to AZ, her alleged crime was providing unsolicited advice. The tipping point was the Facebook recommendation for sunglasses under $35. Meanwhile, I was struggling to put together a new life after decades in the Northeast.
Disappear them. Tyrannical regimes - and Jersey City politics was just that before gentrification - simply erase identities. They don't exist any more. End of that story. As a good deed, I had interviewed another former Seton Hill classmate, Irene Nunn, about her portrait enterprise. I posted that on one of my three syndicated blogs. Sustained heavy traffic.
Before I pulled out of the Northeast Corridor, Nunn sent me an email with unasked-for advice. The tone was something that truly annoyed me.
How satisfying was the experience of deleting that post. In the Oscar-winning film "Room," the boy held captive for years revisits that room. He says, Bye, room." A version of The Cold Shoulder is the first step in being eventually able to utter, aloud, "Goodbye, _____."
Be the town crier. No bad deed should go unreported. Figure out the ring leaders in the grapevines at work and in networking activities such as the hot spirituality groups. Give enough details of your tragedy to get them interested. But leave out enough so that they will labor to get the rest. As they probe, there's a feeding fest for even those who pride themselves on never participating in gossip. The half life of that verbal force field could be forever.
Position and package yourself as above it all. No, you don't want to be associated with what is going on. Simply end any conversations about that with, "It's sad that occurred." Then smoothly change the topic.
In future posts I will share other communications strategies and tactics which help you never reach the stage of rage about the alleged harm done you by alleged dark side of other human beings. Resentments can be processed in an efficient and effective manner. No one in the old neighborhood ever went to jail, had a heart attack or was sued because of any perceived injustice put in play by another resident.