Saturday, February 06, 2010

speak up

The television is very pro-confrontation. Advice always centers around talking it through, for your sake and the sake of others. Because for some reason the issue just won't resolve itself if you don't take action.

This is not the way I was raised. Sure my siblings and I fought, but about stupid stuff like who ate the last cookie or got the best stocking stuffer. Nothing serious.

As a kid I never was grounded, not even once. Okay granted I was a pretty good kid. Always on the honor roll, holding down a second job, staying away from drugs. Save booze, but my parents discovered I drank because I refused to drive after having a couple wine coolers. (This was the 80's people, wine coolers came in 2 liters) Kinda hard to argue with a kid that responsible.

But there were things my parents probably would have sat me down and discussed if they followed the Oprah way of life. How do I know? Simple. Whenever my parents were upset with me they discussed it in the presence of or directly with my siblings. Who then turned right around and told me. So I knew. And either I changed my behavior or reasoned to myself why not changing my behavior was fine. Either way with no more updates from my sister or brother.

Most interestingly my parents complained about each other to me throughout my childhood. One of them would get me alone in a car and inevitably the sentence "don't tell your mother but" or "don't tell your father but" came up with some kinda story. Thus I would listen. I got pretty good at that I think. Of course I was too young to provide advice, but I learned a lot about their relationship. Not in a bad way. It gave me valuable insight to a marriage that has lasted for over forty years.

Funny thing is while this proved to be a peaceful upbringing it did not necessarily translate into my adult life well. It took me a long, long time to be able to speak up for myself on the job. I would get frustrated about something and instead of speaking to someone to correct the issue I would let the anger build up until I broke out in tears. Luckily that pretty much all happened in my waiting tables stage, so my professionalism wasn't put in question.

When I became a boss my need to be able to confront people became clear. And my god that was the hardest part about leaning to have employees. Indeed it is easier to not tell someone when they are doing something wrong, or that they need to improve their work. They will skate by thinking they are doing a fine job, but yet wonder why they aren't getting anywhere. Or why others are not recognizing their efforts.

So I learned to take the high road. Buck up, sit the person down and tell them straight. Even now I kind of tense up at the concept. The weird thing is I have accepted this as my role, so now when I see the need to speak up I start chomping at the bit. Literally I can't wait to get the words out of my mouth, to say what needs to be said. In some way I have become compulsively honest at work. Which I think my employees least after the moment passes. They know where they stand, and they trust I will let them know either way if they are doing well or not so much.

Ha, but my personal life? Nope. no way. I will do just about anything to avoid a tough conversation.

It just doesn't make sense to me to discuss the tough stuff. Unlike in work, when it is personal no one feels better. If I'm not happy with something then I feel miserable talking about it and the other person feels lousy for having upset me. On the other hand if I'm the one in the wrong I feel like a jerk. Either way I'm not feeling good. It's not like I need the release, I don't need to unload on the transgressor to feel better. I have a super high emotional metabolism, I move on.

Granted if there is an action that needs correcting I'll discuss, but that to me doesn't seem like confrontation mode. It is just a request to next time wash the dishes instead of letting them sit overnight. Or to throw out the empty container of milk. That's just communication, no feelings.

Confrontation about feelings? Nah. Making someone else feel bad doesn't make me feel better like T.V. insists. I think they got something wrong with that. Let's talk about forgive and forget, that's the real kindness.

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