Friday, October 19, 2012
Tact, or the Lack Thereof; and an Apology
In a wide-ranging conversation with a friend today I was telling him a family story and he said, "Ah, a little passive aggressive." I laughed and said, "No, nothing about my family is passive."
I grew up in a "tell it like it is" family. I like that. I understand that. It makes sense to me.
I honestly only learned about 2-3 years ago that you just cannot do that in the "real world." You must learn to preface sentences with, "I think...," and sprinkle them with "maybe" and "perhaps" and "I'm wondering." In communication theory, it's pointed out that women tend to do the later much more than men. Men are more likely to be straight about things, without the tentative language.
While I've learned to do this, it is not natural for me, and it takes a considerable amount of energy to constantly remind myself. So, I probably engage less with the world because it's more tiring. I sometimes just say, "That's up to you," or something similar because I just don't have the energy to couch my words with that "spoonful of sugar." The more urgent the issue is, the less tactful I generally am because - obviously - the previous approach hasn't worked or we wouldn't be having the same conversation again. But I find myself less and less willing to engage in those conversations at all.
Truly, until a couple of years ago, I didn't even understand why people would want this softer style of communication. Frankly, I still don't. If I'm working on a project and someone sees a huge flaw I've overlooked, I'd rather they say, "Hey, this isn't going to work. The blah blah blah is in conflict with the blah blah blah." That seems so much better to me than spending 40 minutes exploring the positives and negatives of it with me, in hopes I'll see the error of my ways. If I had seen the error, I wouldn't have done it this way in the first place.
That said, I do understand it's a kinder, gentler way to approach issues. And we can all use more gentleness in the average day. But, please, if I'm about to make a fool of myself and you see it happening, don't hesitate to stop me. Isn't it kinder to prevent disaster than walk gently toward it?
As with all things, I'm guessing the balance is the key here. And, lets face it, balance isn't my best thing. Ironically, the friend I was speaking with said it has only been in the last couple of years he had learned to speak his mind about anything. I guess confusion comes in all varieties.
All of this said, let me take this opportunity to apologize to coworkers, friends, neighbors, bosses and anyone else I may have crossed paths with in this lifetime who found me "abrasive." It was never my intent to harm you in any way, so I apologize if I did.
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Posted by Patsy Terrell at 10:57 PM