How can I become more ruthless

How do I behave towards inconsiderate people

KR member Sabrina commutes to work every day on the regional train from Berlin to Rathenow, that's a good hour each way. In doing so, she witnesses every conceivable ruthlessness of fellow travelers: “6 o'clock, Berlin-Jungfernheide. Everyone is still asleep. But some are loud, they watch series on their cell phones or listen to techno, ”says Sabrina. "And you think: headphones aren't bad either."

Sometimes the 35-year-old manages to fade it out, put on headphones herself or exchange ideas with colleagues and glances at the troublemaker. Sometimes she goes there and says: “Yes, sorry, it's a bit loud.” The reactions are amazing, she says: “People don't expect to be spoken to. Some are embarrassed and ashamed, but the others are really pissed. "

Sabrina tells me about another situation: “The other day on the full train, a grandpa snapped at two boys who were transporting two chairs in a full train. I gathered my courage and jumped in with the boys. But the grandpa did not cease to harass her. Then a muscle-packed two-meter man intervened and made a clear announcement to the grandpa, already slightly aggressive. The grandpa then withdrew. That made me a little proud that I had achieved something. ”But the situation almost escalated - could it have been different?

"Show courage or play duck-mouse?" Asks Sabrina and wants to know how to react.

I talk to Ralf Bongartz to have suitable strategies against troublemakers explained to me and to a train attendant whose main route leads past a youth detention center.

That's what the conflict trainer says

Ralf Bongartz worked for the criminal police for 20 years and was responsible for investigating sexual crimes, homicides and right-wing extremism. Today he trains and advises bus drivers, teachers and social workers in settling disputes and resolving conflicts.

When I tell him Sabrina's story, he reacts cautiously. He says: “The problem with Sabrina and Grandpa is: If you want to help from the outside, you shouldn't just burst in, but first show that you are there and ask, 'Do you need help?' Such a question creates presence and publicity and strengthens the victim. It's about protection, not fight. When confronting perpetrators directly, it is often made worse by using martial language: 'Hey, cut out the nonsense; what do you think of !? Stop the crap, are you still clear in your head !? "

If your behavior is not clear, it is easy to get lost and choose the wrong tone. Then you need an exit strategy. You have to think about how to get out of the situation. Only recently, the conflict coach on the train saw how a dispute over loud music escalated. A woman spoke to the music listener at room volume. She said, “I'm sorry, your music is not my taste. Could you turn it down? ”The addressee went into the air. According to Bongartz, the woman made two mistakes: “She belittled her counterpart or their taste in music. And she spoke so loudly that everyone could overhear, so that the other lost face. "

Bongartz says: “You have to realize that you should always proceed de-escalating with slight disturbances without trust and without relationship to the person addressed.” The sound makes the music. Some people are very sensitive when you confront them directly. Therefore, according to Bongarzt, one needs social lubricant, de-escalators. The way in which you establish initial contact can make it either easy or difficult for the other person to say yes to your own request. As for the music, you can try it like this: "Sorry, great music, but could you do me a favor to turn it down a bit ... sit right behind you and need a few minutes of rest ... thanks!" And the whole thing in a whisper. The first contact is therefore more successful if you observe the following principles:

The five most important principles of addressing mild disorders

  1. Gut feeling: Breathe deeply, feel the anger or fear. Think about it: do I want this now or not? Is it important enough or am I just annoyed for other reasons? Take a close look at the other person: what does he look like, is he brushed for riot? Then the best thing to do: avoid, ignore, go somewhere else. Or get the conductor.

  2. Find the good reason: Ask yourself why the other is doing this, for example listening to music loudly. We tend to always look for the worst possible reason to assume negative intentions. This is often not the case at all. The other person may not want to provoke around at all, but rather express himself, listen to hardcore out loud, or he is looking for contact. Assume that the other is not acting against you, but for himself. Then you will approach him much less aggressively yourself.

  3. Set de-escalators: You can assume a positive intention, you can avoid the public and speak softly, you can be friendly instead of annoyed, you can look at the other person in a friendly manner and make a request. Assume that the other person is someone who is very important to you and who you like.

  4. Don't be moral: One can assume that both are right. Do you want to be right or do you want to be successful? You can't do both at the same time. If you are wronging the other, why should he or she act?

  5. Make no more than two to three persistent attempts: If that doesn't work, retreat, because you can't force anyone to do something. Ask yourself: do I accept that? Or do I get help (police or train attendant)? And following on from that: Do I announce this or do I just do it?

In the event of serious violations, for example if someone is attacked, you should definitely get help and involve others on site. Then a de-escalation does not make sense, but a confrontation: “Then you need a strong demeanor, a clear voice. Gestures, facial expressions and gaze behavior must be clear. ”Bongartz advises making a clear statement, such as:“ Stop! What is the matter that you are so angry? ”(Clarifying confrontation) or“ Stop, these are insults! Stop doing that, otherwise I'll call the police. "(Limiting confrontation). But the main thing is to pull the victim out of the perpetrator's magnetic field (protection).

That's what the train attendant says

Peter Hohmann has been a train attendant for 25 years, his regular route is the regional train from Fulda to Frankfurt am Main, one and a half hours there, one and a half back. He knows most of the passengers by now, they commute regularly. Hohmann likes his job, and he is popular: last year, at the suggestion of his passengers, he was voted Germany's most popular railroader. But he, too, constantly has to do with people who don't behave: “The inhibition threshold is lower today than it used to be,” he says. “Passengers spread out on four seats, others have to stand. You listen to loud music and sleep while you do it You are looking for a quarrel or mob. "

He does regular de-escalation training at his employer. But the 47-year-old says: “You need a sure instinct. Going through life strictly is of no use these days. I always take it easy, addressing the passengers with humor or a saying. "His secret of success:" I give people a feeling of connection, I pick up bullet points and come back to: 'Good morning, how are you? How was the vacation? ’When someone was tanned."

Peter Hohmann has made it a principle that everyone on the train sees him once. He says, “You can do a lot with communication. Escalation is the worst. "If someone is looking for an argument, arrives with music without headphones, he tries to beat him with his own weapons:" What good do you have there? Sing something for us. I'm sure you're such a rapper. Here, you can have my microphone. "

Often it takes the wind out of the passenger's sails, but of course such announcements are less suitable for fellow travelers. Nevertheless, one can learn something from Hohmann. While there are police operations twice a week with colleagues, Peter Hohmann has never had to exercise his domiciliary rights, although the youth arrest in Gelnhausen is on his route and boys from there often ride with him. If one of them misbehaves, Hohmann sits down and asks what's going on. Some then unpack, tell about their problems, family stories.

The trainer says: “It doesn't do any good to go straight from 0 to 180. See what kind of guy you are. And try to find his language. Try to approach others openly and with a sense of humor. Someone always smiles or reacts. My advice: never put yourself in danger because of trivialities. "

That's what the KR readers say

A good 80 KR readers sent advice for Sabrina. The range of reactions is wide. Volker recommends reacting loosely and participating yourself. He says: “What is defined as ruthless here is standard in other countries. That is maximum acoustic discomfort. And you can sit it out if you want. ”Christian proceeds like this:“ First I wait, check my thoughts and feelings, then try to classify the extent to which I am appropriately upset or whether I was annoyed before anyway. If necessary take a deep breath, but if in doubt, say something more often. "

Sigrid bothers smoking and listening to loud music. Depending on her personal constitution, she will tell the person this directly. Her advice: “Always ask yourself whether it is worth the effort and whether you can deal with the expected reaction.” In Adrian's opinion, it is important to assess the other person: “Can I find a connection to the person? If so, find an empathic tone and ask the person if they could do it differently. Not confrontational, not exposed. 'Can you please listen to your music outside or with headphones? I've just had a long day. ‘" Often a more intense look helps, says Sonja, who is particularly annoyed about feet on seats: "Important: Imagine that many people just don't think about it at that moment."

Elisa finds it helpful “to think about an exit strategy beforehand if the person addressed lets you off - that happens very often. Then how do you get out of the situation with dignity? Do you get off, do you talk to the bus driver or other passengers, or do you get involved in a conflict? Playing it through for yourself beforehand helps me. ”Svenja often says nothing because she“ doesn't want to be that typical German philistine ”. “Since you will never achieve that everyone applies the same level of consideration, you should learn pragmatically not to allow yourself to be provoked. With (audio) books, music or the like, it is easier for me to use travel times for myself. ”Daniel also says:“ Try to shed the responsibility and not allow situations like this - if it is not massive - to touch you. "

But of course that doesn't always work. Accordingly, Mieke describes the following experience: “Today an older man stood in my way when I was using my bike like a scooter on the sidewalk. I knew that was not correct; I was in a hurry. In order not to endanger anyone, I had dismounted halfway and only rolled out the last few meters. When I thanked him, he shouted, 'You old pig.' I asked him if he was behaving. 'You don't have that, anti-social pack,' he shouted. Afterwards I bawled: 'I'll be happy to do that, if that's different from you.' I think I was quick-witted and yet I'm very unhappy about my reaction. Ultimately, I spoke his language; I do not like it."

The last word therefore belongs to Claudia, who says: “It bothers me that a lot of people complain that everyone is becoming more and more selfish and inconsiderate - and her solution: react the same way. I feel it especially when cycling. Many do not look back when overtaking, do not stop when a tram stops - but complain themselves about recklessness. I think first and foremost everyone should start with themselves! "


Many thanks to all KR members who took part: Roland, Christian, Volker, Michael, Mieke, Axel, Christian, Daniel, Käthe, Sebastian, Jeanne, Sigrid, Ilka, Adrian, Martin, Axel, Anne, Eva, Elisa, Julia, Julia, Therese, Svenja, Petra, Rike, Sascha, Nicole, Lena, Markus R., Simone, Verena, Steffie, Johannes, Katalena, Alexander, CB, Katja, Christoph, Silke, Cynthia, Mane, Tina, Barbara, Maik, Siegfried, Denise, Stefanie M., Louis, Claudia, Bernd, Valentin, Clemente, Francesca, Eva, Jens, Thomas, Wendelin, Claudia, Grete, Rika, Richard, Martin, Sabrina, Michael, Rudolf, Marianne, Frank, Thomas, Anja, Tanja, Guenter, Marie-Pascale, Peter Cornelius, Passenger Association PRO BAHN, State Chairman Berlin-Brandenburg, Jule, Günter, Maren, Sonja, Sarah, Daniel, Katharina and to Sabrina for your questions.

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Editor: Philipp Daum; Final editing: Vera Fröhlich; Photo editor: Martin Gommel.