Self Edit

I had a good time on Friday night, hanging out with some friends around a fire pit, eating pizza and drinking beer. There may be rough times ahead, but hopefully by this time next week my father will be resting comfortably and recuperating from a successful bypass operation. Fingers are crossed and hands are clasped in prayer. In any case, we're certainly going to enjoy this weekend and the Easter holiday.

Amid myriad topics that arose at Friday night's gathering, we somehow got on the subject of inappropriate things that people will say, especially in the workplace. My friend's wife works in human resources, and recalls a time a girl came to her crying because a coworker commented on her behind as she was walking away. The guy didn't seem to think he'd done anything wrong either when brought in to address the complaint, but “the things I'd do to your a**!” was definitely not acceptable. I couldn't help but recall the time George Costanza got in trouble for having sex with the cleaning lady at work, and his classic “Should I not have done that...?” defense:

Obviously there will be cases of gray areas, but in the professional world we definitely need to be careful about what we say, how we say it, and who we say it to. And there should definitely be a distinction between the inside voice and outside voice. I remember one occasion on which I gave an executive a ride to work, and upon learning I was still single and still lived at home, she made various comments and inquiries ranging from “You must have a lot of money!” to “Do you date?” Granted, she's over 60 and prefers women, but those still aren't the sort of things you say to a lower employee. I think people reach a point in life where they don't care about what they say, and there are some people who go through all of life without ever having a filter.

My filter is constantly on, only because I've done and said so many stupid and embarrassing things in my life. I came close on Friday morning, when pouring milk into my coffee. The container I'd grabbed was all but empty, and only had a few drops in it. On the other side of the table, I heard a girl inquire, “You need more milk than that, right?” My eyes moved up from my coffee cup, and lingered probably too long on cleavage before I made it up to her face. She offered me the rest of the milk from the container she had grabbed. “I like it black, anyway.”

I managed to keep the high road and remain both courteous and professional, politely thanking her and making some small talk about coffee before going on my way. Even if I wasn't adept at self-editing most of the time, I'd been through a mandatory sexual harassment seminar a few years back like all other new hires, and knew that no matter how good a set up was, I couldn't spike it. Sure, there were responses in my brain, since we're all human, and we all think things. We can only control our thoughts so much, since they occur in fractions of a second, but since we have just a bit more time before thought becomes speech, there's no excuse for not making the distinction between what we say in our head, and what we say out loud, to friends and especially to strangers. It takes practice, but it pays off. Even hours later with a few beers in me, when everyone at the gathering was sharing stories about inappropriate things people had said at various companies, I managed to keep the anecdote about the cleavage girl offering me milk, and what I almost said, to myself.

I guess it's fortunate I have a blog so I can get this stuff out of my system. Otherwise I'd have to keep a journal, lest I risk unleashing my inside voice on the outside world. And then I'd be asking, “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? Because if I had any idea that that sort of thing was frowned upon...”


Blogger cube said...

I blog as though my mother or my grandmother (I alternate between the two) is standing behind me reading what I write. That's how I stay out of trouble.

As an inveterate journal keeper, the personal stuff is kept there under lock and key ;-)

4/03/2010 9:33 AM  
Blogger b13 said...

Wrong on so many levels ;) I love it.
Have a wonderful Easter.

4/03/2010 3:08 PM  
Anonymous FawnDoo said...

I completely agree: I'm much more reserved at work than I am out of work, and will always default to "don't say that" if I am in any way unsure. There's a line from a book I like called "Yes, Minister" that I apply a lot in work: "As long as there is anything to be gained by saying nothing, it is always better to say nothing than anything."

4/04/2010 5:16 AM  

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