Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mean People Suck...

...Are We All Mean?

I was talking to someone late yesterday whose feelings are hurt that I was chosen to co-develop a training program over her.  I get her disappointment.  She has a lot of experience with the topic I'm working on.  On the one hand, she is indeed better qualified than I am.  However, she struggles with some of the processes we use that are unique to the company I am doing this for and is openly grumpy about that.  We're about the same age and both ran companies at one point, so I get it:  she's very used to a certain way of doing things, was successful at it, and so she struggles with why she needs to change, along with the fact that technology is moving so fast it is hard for us to keep pace.  What got me the nod therefore is my willingness to accept the direction the company wanted to go.  Commitment trumps experience in these situations because how can you possibly stand before a group of people and "train" them on something you do not believe in?  Nonetheless, she is unhappy.  Rejection is hard on the ego.  I get that too.  So, as we were talking, I was sensitive to her open wound.  Where I felt she went astray with me is when she insulted me and told me flat out I was unqualified.  I've actually had more experience than she realized, and I'll give myself some major props for not bristling immediately, staying calm (because she meant it personally, I don't have much doubt), and letting her know in what I hope was a tone completely devoid of defensiveness some things about my background that she wasn't aware of.  She did graciously apologize and then go on to say that she is glad, therefore, that I'll be involved.  Now she's both embarrassed and still hurt.  And, as calm as I tried to stay, and as much as I knew the underlying motivation for her attack, her words have stayed with me.  Like usual, that got me to thinking...

And here's what I thought:  there was a time that I would have absolutely delighted that I won the verbal sparring match, but it is funny how life has a way of humbling you.  For that, I am actually glad.  I like much about the current Me as opposed to the person I was even ten years ago.  If I could combine the personality I have now with the way I looked in the early 90's, I would be so thrilled.  But, the price of wisdom is your youth, I'm afraid.

Of course, I am telling you the tale, so I guess you could say I'm still reveling in it a little.  I hope that's not why I bring it up.  It's just stuck with me since it happened.  I mean, I got a sincere take back, and I'm also not as thin skinned as I once was, but I won't deny that the vehemence with which she originally made the statement stung me a little, and I genuinely think that's why it has sort of bounced around in my brain cavity instead of going in one ear and out the other.  I am quite capable of using words as lethal weapons, but I certainly hope that if I ever get that temptation again, I remember how she made me feel.  Not as bad as some things that got said to me a few weeks before by someone a lot closer to me.  But, here's the thing about all of that:  okay, you got it off your chest.  Do you really feel better that you've hurt someone?  Or do you still feel bad, and you've just now made someone else miserable?  Does that saying "misery loves company" hold true for you?  If it does, are you willing to pay the price of damaging a relationship?  Remember another saying, "Don't burn your bridges."

Now the other thing I thought about, or rather am thinking about right now, is how my estranged sister-in-law would react to all of this, because, as some long term readers know, I threw down a verbal gauntlet not all that long ago when I was upset by something that transpired between us.  And I did it in a somewhat public format.  I was hurt at the time, but it certainly doesn't excuse it.  I know that.  I knew it at the time.  I've admitted both privately and publicly that I behaved badly, but we're done with one another.  And here's the kicker:  what she experienced from all of that was the hurt from my reference.  I think the larger topic of how I was made to feel that caused me to react in the first place got completely lost.  Not surprisingly.  So, who am I to talk about keeping it civil?  I'll tell you.  I'm the one who has made the exact same mistakes before.  Learn from me.  Do as I say, not as I do!

That leads me to the other thing I was thinking about.  We're all just works in progress.  I know full well not to lash out at people when I feel slighted.  My sordid tale with my husband's oldest sister is just one in a long line of stupid inter-personal relationship stuff I've done in my life.  But, I do it anyway every so often.  It is like the pressure builds and builds until you end up popping off at someone.  Particularly someone whom you think it is safe to do it to.  And, of course, that's the person who's going to be most hurt by your cutting words.  You may assume they'll forgive you.  But, sometimes they don't.  Remember my mother and her sister, who took their silly feud to their respective graves, as will my sister-in-law and I most likely.

Finally, however, I respect the right to say what you need to.  I fully support the woman's right to tell me she felt she was highly qualified and to admit she was flummoxed by her omission.  That's completely fair and a heck of a lot different than saying in comparison that I am not qualified.  She has the right to say that, and I in turn should respect her feelings when I reply to her, with empathy and compassion.  But, it's a skill a lot of us don't have.  Some of us would never be able to pull it off, but most of us are pliable enough to learn some new tricks, particularly if, at the end of the day, it is really us who benefits from it.  And all of this to end up with the burning question:  this is important to master.  Why is it then "They" don't spend more timing teaching us inter-personal relationships as part of our required education?  We are left to flounder around and either figure it out or not on our own.  I bet at least one or two wars might have been prevented.  Certainly a murder or two.  Definitely a whole lot of break-ups.

1 comment:

  1. Because "They" don't know how to do it either.

    I am not sure it is something most people master. We can do it now and then, here and there. The only "Theys" that have mastered it and can teach it, live on top of very high, cold mountains and will gladly teach it to you, if you climb the mountain and stick around long enough to learn it, and master it, in about....20 or 30 years.

    That is our lesson for the day, Grasshopper.