The questions we ask can give clues to our ignorance
I wasn’t going to write about this, but it’s been niggling at the back of my brain for several days, demanding to come out, so I finally had to let my subconscious have it’s way (again!). Recently, a young man asked me how I would feel if someone made or posted a critical remark about my work when I was new to a job. At the time, it was clear that he felt that his question was rhetorical, so I didn’t bother to answer. However, as it crawled around in the recesses of my brain, I realized that, given how little he knew of me and my career paths, it was a rather ignorant question. I have, in the past, worked in a male dominated field, in industries which were also male dominated. As a strong woman, it presented a lot of challenges, not only from my male superiors and counterparts, but also from women who had learned that the men they worked for were relatively easy to manipulate, a characteristic I simply don’t share. Many times during my career, I was hired to update or fix a department, only to be met by resistance from the women (and sometimes, outright belligerence and nastiness), but lack of support even from the men who hired me. Needless to say, it was an uphill battle (and often a thankless one) to accomplish what I’d been told was expected of me, along with many things which the hiring manager failed to mention. Eventually, by hook or by crook, I’d make things happen, though it usually took a lot of extra hours on my part, facing down management and making it clear that their support was required if they wanted everyone on board with the changes they’d requested, and finding myself in a special, little place where I was not staff, yet, not quite recognized as management.
I think, in a way, I was dumbfounded by the question, as it was rare for me NOT to receive some kind of criticism and resistance in the first days of a new job. I was brought in to make changes, and people are naturally resistant to change. Even so, unlike men I’d worked under who came in and made changes without understanding the company’s current system, I took the time to learn before making anything large and sweeping. But nobody ever complained about the men to management, nor made rude remarks to their face.
Though I know the person who asked the question doesn’t really want an answer, I have to say, for my own peace of mind (and to shut my subconscious up) that if you can’t take criticism when you start a new job (whether or not it’s constructive) you should consider something which minimizes your exposure to people like, maybe, flipping burgers at McDonald’s. People as a rule have opinions and we don’t always think before we express them. If you take what everyone says to heart, you’re giving their words entirely too much control over your life!
While I understand that the man was defending his employee, which, on the surface is admirable, his approach lacked value in that it came from a place of anger and lacked a great deal as far as rationality. I, for one, would have retained my respect for both parties had I been approached calmly and without aggression, pointing out that I had offended someone with my less than well thought out words. Had it been handled that way, I would have found it in myself to apologize for my thoughtlessness. Under the current circumstances, I don’t feel either the need or the desire to do so.
Using words to establish a battle ground can close the door on human kindness.
Over the years, I’ve learned that how we start a conversation can and will set the tone for how our words are received. Beginning it with aggression will invariably cause the listener to shut down a part of their mind, closing it off to reason and compromise. In this case, I complied with the request, but only because it was my plan to do so anyway. I would have taken things a lot further had it been pointed out calmly that I had been unkind, as it is my desire to be as kind as possible to other people. Hitting me with the tired, old line “How would you feel if…?: simply highlighted both the immaturity of the speaker and his inability to put his anger aside and just address the issue unemotionally and logically. In all fairness, in my younger days, I still had this lesson to learn, and it took several repetitions until I became consistent, though by no means, perfect every time.
Every one of us suffers from foot in mouth disease at one time or another.
Mishandling difficult situations is part of everyone’s learning curve, I believe. It doesn’t make us bad or stupid. It just makes us human. Everyone does many things well, and a few things…not so well. If we can look back and recognize the ones which show where self-improvement is needed, they were a valuable lesson. It is only then that we can make the necessary changes and become a better person. If, however, we get so caught up in our “rightness” that we fail to see the learning opportunity, we’re going to find ourselves in an oddly repetitive loop where, if we’re paying attention, we’ll start feeling a slightly ominous sense of deja vu on a regular basis. Whether we like it or not, the Universe has a way of administering head slaps when we need them most.
My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful that my subconscious rattles around at times and forces me to share uncomfortable thoughts.
2. I am grateful for the opportunities which show me by reflection that I haven’t completely mastered certain lessons because they still give me pause when I see them in other people.
3. I am grateful for my own home, my own bed, and my own furry sleeping partners.
4. I am grateful for days which allow me to catch up.
5. I am grateful for the abundance we can all achieve; love, joy, happiness, kindness, harmony, health and prosperity.