Sheila is bossing everyone around because the idea that she’ll lose control threatens her. Derek is passive aggressive to Sheila because his intelligence and competence are being questioned, [or threatened]. Both are acting snappish to the customers because it’s tense. The customers feel threatened by surliness of the staff so they respond in a like manner. The Café feels more like a battle zone than place of refuge.
Threat doesn’t have to refer to mortal fears, i.e. he threatened her with a gun. Anything that threatens your inner peace or well-being can be stressful.
It is not always possible to employ the “flight” response and leave every stressful situation.
It is also not moral or legal to destroy all of our stressors with the “fight” response.
And “freeze” just postpones things.
So how are we to respond?
Sheila is just as stressed out as Derek about something else. When we can recognize this, it seems less threatening. But it’s hard.
If Derek can recognize that Sheila’s issues are not about him, he can detach. He doesn’t have to be a victim. She ceases to be a threat.
It gets easier with awareness and practice.
It’s still annoying, but can be dealt with in a different manner than a threat would be. This slight tweak in your thinking will change everything. People can sense fear and it causes tension and gruff behavior. Though you still may still respond by fighting or fleeing, but your response won’t be powered by fear and you’ll have more control of the situation.