When not to back down?

Fillets of Sole Graham Kerr
Jul 08, 2016

When not to back down?


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #30
Rite of Passage Ten –The Ocean’s Beckon–
1957 to 1958 -I am twenty three to twenty seven years old

Q: Confrontations: Were you ever forced (by circumstances) to confront someone else when the outcome appeared to be questionable…even dangerous?

I was a very young general manager of a four star hotel taking care of a senior member of the British aristocracy.

It was the Royal Ascot race week and we were overwhelmed!

His Grace the Duke of Norfolk wanted a Sole Veronique, which is made quite simply with poached fillets of Dover Sole, a light yet creamy white wine sauce garnished with peeled black grapes.

Simple, providing that it had been on the menu! Imagine peeling black grapes…in a hurry!

The chef, a huge overemotional Frenchman was not amused or impressed with the Duke, or any Englishman for that matter!

“Non…tell ‘im we ‘ave not zee provisions!” He shouted over the kitchen din.

The Duke replied that we had black grapes in the fruit bowl and Dover Sole on the menu, “I’m in no hurry. I’ll wait.”

I took the grapes to the chef and ordered him to make the dish.

The chef clapped his beefy hands around the grapes, squeezed hard, and repeated, “we ‘ave not zee provisions!”

This, is a classic confrontation, one in which the opposition has considerable logic on their side…not to mention his 6 foot 4 inch 290lb physical ‘edge’!

Using as even a tone as I could manage I repeated my order…feeling that I too had reasonable logic on my side. The chef spun me around and hurled me into the dining room through the convenient flapping two-way doors!

So…what about now?

I remain unsure who won the confrontation. I fired the chef (on the phone) he was already leaving. I made the dish for the now somewhat inebriated Duke…and tried to put it behind me.

However…it still remains!

Since those early days I have had many confrontations where, when I lost, there were pretty serious consequences.

I have learned that one thing must always be avoided, at all costs, becoming angry whilst insisting on having one’s own way.

My second option? is to try hard to see my opponent’s point of view and to imagine him or her ‘crying out for justice’. They want me to understand their position…even if I don’t agree; they still need to know that I really did choose to listen.

Very recently (during our present political ‘hostilities’) I have seen just how much a kinder and more respectful exchange may have helped candidates and even more so…the nation and the watching world.

Now that may not be what we are wanting to see and we may even feel that a world like ours needs people with supreme self-confidence who refuse to back down. But do they have to be angry?

As for me –I’m done with insisting and the moment I feel anger rising I remember peeling those black grapes with trembling fingers. Surely there could have been another way?

Fillets of Sole Graham KerrThis is where my recipe for fillets of sole made with black truffles, instead of peeled grapes, would have come in handy. Had I only thought, at the time, to offer this to His Grace the Duke, I might have won the day and kept both my illustrious guest and my impetuous chef…?






P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Capriciousness


  1. Jean N. Sozio Says: 4:51 pm

    P.S. The first rule of customer service is: the customer is always right. Another bit of wisdom I gleaned from a manager is that my paycheck was the customer’s dollar first. Your chef, though talented, was driven more by pride than service. You were right in what you did – especially in taking the reigns in the kitchen to peel the grapes. That’s what a good manager does – he does it all to keep the ship afloat. Truffles – yummo!

  2. Jean N. Sozio Says: 4:23 pm

    I had the fortunate and unfortunate opportunity at my first job to have been promoted to group leader from amongst my peers. Of course there was one who had to push my buttons by taking advantage of the fact that the day before I was “the boss” we were friendly co-workers. I had to discipline this employee for insubordination and it was tough! I stayed awake all night (not knowing the Lord then and how to effectively pray and walk by faith and with wisdom) wrestling with how to deal with the situation courageously. Thank God for elders (my older brother) who from experience working as a manager counseled me to speak directly to the person explaining to them my position and my need for their cooperation for the benefit of all the group. It worked! I was amazed. My knees stopped shaking as this person totally backed down and agreed to be less disruptive.. I drank then – thank God for Black Velvet. I learned allot from that confrontation and forever tucked that bit of wisdom in my heart. Over the years I developed a real skill for negotiation as I held other team leader positions. I learned to come to the table as a mediator rather than a dictator. I present what is to be the final outcome and why. I let those around me develop the steps to get there and how we can work together to accomplish our goal. It’s “our” thing -not “my” thing. And without drinking! But yes like you Graham, the first time is the worst time. My favorite movie is Ratatouile. 🙂

  3. Ira Says: 1:29 pm

    Life is full of decisions, confronting others, and being confronted by them. Although there have been plenty of good ones, and others that make me wonder what life would have been like if I had chosen differently. The decisions made and confrontations that have happened, whether for good reasons or not, are how God brought me to be exactly where I am and who I am today. Therefore I have no regrets, just many many lessons to learn and grow from.

  4. Lynn Severance Says: 12:49 pm

    I’ve had various, though limited, experiences with confrontation. I’ve known times I needed resolve to a conflict and took the initiative kindly to enter dialogue and was met with rejection – person walked away!

    I once had to confront an administrator who had gone about securing a teaching position for me, but had messed up the process and left me, where? I wasn’t sure. After a weekend alone to stew in anger over it, I was able to confront her with a suggested plan for resolve (but calmed down when I did it). The outcome resolved itself without either of us the worse for wear.

    I recently had to seek resolve through confrontation but it had to be done in writing. Ah – so much can go awry “in the written word” when trying to communicate clearly. I found myself having to write 3 drafts because I kept drifting off the current need and back to “old issues” with the same person. Finally (and it took prayer), I was able to address her professionally and simply ask her “what happened” from her perspective and gave her mine. It was done calmly (in that 3rd draft!!! 🙂 and that made all the difference. The matter got resolved. She took responsibility for what had happened.

    I give these few examples as one thread though the experiences I expressed is how important stepping away from “anger” can be when one wants to have some rational exchange. An alternative is to be with someone who is open to acknowledging “anger” and also committed to marching through the conversation to get to the roots so that anger gets dissipated and resolve is the calm outcome. Ideal? Yes. But a goal worthy to work toward

  5. Schy Gleason Says: 2:30 pm

    In Improve theater it’s call “Yes And”… it allow’s the story to continue. When your fellow improve player gives you a situation you don’t say “NO” you build off what you’ve been given and see where your creativity and imagination take the story.

  6. Christy Says: 1:31 pm

    I agree!

  7. Jennifer Maydole Says: 9:00 am

    I have learned to embrace the concept of compromise although the sound of it as I type still makes my choleric -black and white nature cringe. Unless it is a moral issue, most confrontational situations we find ourselves in should be about respecting and acknowledging the lives involved and less about opinions, money, material goods or personal preferences. What would Jesus do? He would love and respect people and not care so much about things that don’t matter in the light of eternity.

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