Get Respect At Work Lesson From “Ink Master” Tattoo Artist

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Cheryl Ragsdale
Cheryl Ragsdale applies her mixed martial arts fight training to teaching people how to handle verbal skirmishes in professional and personal relationships. She is available for coaching and consulting.
Cheryl Ragsdale
Cheryl Ragsdale
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James Danger tattoo artist

James Danger tattoo artist
photo credit:

Putting your reputation on the line to earn the title of “Ink Master” tattoo artist is a high-profile way to get respect at work. The “Ink Master” competition features 16 top tattoo artists vying for a $100,000 prize plus an editorial in “Inked” magazine. The winner is entitled to all the honor and respect of being bestowed with the coveted title of Ink Master.

Ink Master cast, season 3

Ink Master cast, season 3
photo credit:

With that much at stake, tension runs high when it’s time for the artists to complete a challenge to determine whether they can stay in the competition or not. The people receiving the tattoos are referred to as “human canvases”.

A recent segment of Spike TV’s “Ink Master” reality TV show featured a battle between Canvas Natalie and her tattoo artist, James Danger Harvey. If this situation had taken place in James’ familiar surroundings, at his shop and speaking with a client, Canvas Natalie would probably have been shown the door much earlier.

Clients have to be pleased with the permanent tattoo on their skin. Not being able to agree on the design is a clear indication to move on.

Respect for your client and respect for the artist have to be balanced before any skin is exposed.

Something’s Gone Horribly Wrong

Artist James was in for a challenge when he met the woman assigned to him. Within a time limit, each artist was to design a phoenix tattoo, get agreement from their human canvas and apply the tattoo. The conversation between James and Canvas Natalie didn’t start off well. Tension was high during the design phase. The partnership deteriorated in the moments leading up to the starting bell.

Without a level of confidence, neither the canvas nor the artist was willing to continue.

Basically, that left James Danger with no one to tattoo. He ended up being sent home.

Could James have salvaged
that situation?

What could James have done differently to calm Canvas Natalie down?

At one point, his hands were shaking. Bad sign for a man about to start a tattoo. Shaking hands indicate emotional upset. Canvas Natalie made no effort to stop her bullying and belittling behavior. It was obvious she had taken control of the situation when she questioned whether she could trust James to tattoo her.

At that point, the game was over for James.

Natalie did not accept his design. She showed no respect for James’ ability to complete a tattoo. Natalie wanted a tattoo that she would be satisfied to live with for the rest of her life. It wasn’t going to happen with James.

There was nothing he could have done.

Respect Lesson: Tattoo Art or War?

Even tough-looking tattoo artists like James Danger Harvey have trouble handling bullies. When someone launches an attack from a position of safety, knowing that you can’t attack back, that’s called bullying.

In this case, Canvas Natalie demonstrated her lack of respect by becoming combative, verbally advancing on James.  She reminded me of a fighter throwing punches. Instead of partnering with her tattoo artist, Canvas Natalie acted like James was her opponent.

James, did his best to defend himself. He fought back (verbally) as best he could. But finally, he gave up and said, “Maybe I’m not the tattoo artist for you.”

James could have chosen to go toe-to-toe, exchanging verbal strikes with Natalie. But why? He was already caught in her trap. He remained as professional as possible and kept his integrity.

Here is the video link to watch the battle Canvas Natalie vs James Danger, Ink Master: Elimination Tattoo: Phoenix: Part II

Self-Respect: Best Steps to Take to Defend Yourself

What’s the best way to handle this kind of “no respect at work” confrontation?

  1. Know when you’re in a war that you cannot win. James had no leverage in this situation.
  2. Don’t engage in returning verbal strike for verbal strike. Respect the other person’s power to destroy you.
  3. Recognize when the person has shifted from partner to opponent. Opponents are kept at a professional distance. With a partner, you can take your guard down. With an opponent, keep your guard up at all times.
  4. Reach out for help. This is not a battle you can fight on your own. Grab someone nearby to witness your opponent’s behaviour. This helps to dissect whether you are over-reacting or not. Plus, everyone needs someone in their corner.

People like Canvas Natalie are never going to be happy with you or respect your work. Minimize the time you spend with dominating people like Natalie.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? How have you handled it?