Tone & Tactic

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
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I am sensitive. Some have been annoyed with the level of sensitivity I exhibit on a daily basis. I suppose they might fear the desire to “walk on eggshells” around me. While imposing that sort of vibe is never my intention, I am sensitive to tone and I react to it. I suppose, that has made me “difficult to manage” in past employer-employee relations. But, when I think about who I am sensitive to, it’s not everyone. I can’t type it specifically expect beyond the tone and tactic used.

The back-story. A few of my college roommate situations were less than favorable. Some people have college roommates who end up their best friends for life. Mine bordered on the manipulative and controlling. It was the first time I had seen such dynamics, and I still wonder at their outcomes. One gal was a strange hypochondriac who whined and used strange tactics to blame me and our third roommate for her psychological ales – strangely during exam weeks. The other, tried to use force, the threat of coercion, and guilt tripping to get her way – whatever that way was. In retrospect, both individuals were craving some intimate human connection but used very strange tools to get what they thought they wanted.

It seems the roommates I had who craved attention have morphed into colleagues who crave or demand respect in other peculiar ways. When someone asks me to do somethign for them, in a work situation, I have found I will expedite the request if it was asked of me nicely and with respect. If the colleague were to demand something, I dig my heels in and put up a fuss! Usually because I feel insulted that my time wasn’t a factor in their consideration.

For example, “Would you be able to generate that letter for me tomorrow?” is much different than “Michelle, create the invoice by 9am Wednesday morning.” First, the question begs – as a colleague, do you have the authority to task something to me? Answer: no. Second, the question begs, what would you gain by demanding something of me, so trivial? Answer: unknown. I suspect this is the individuals way of doing things. I know I have had to retrain my brain to make requests instead of demands all around, and I am less than perfect at it, but I do try.

Back to the roommates. The college roommates wanted power, of sorts. They wanted respect, but they had ineffective ideas of how to get it. I really think they wanted, in part, the idealized version of the college roommate: staying up late, chatting about whatever, giggling over boys, and pursuing dreams together. Things get difficult in relationships when pretense is dropped and we start being ourselves. We get quirky. We want to execute our own plans. Our needs change. Growing up is learning to deal with our own needs in a continuum of allowing others to deal with their’s.

These interpersonal relationships are simply a microcosm of our larger world. So, in light of Osama bin Laden‘s death, there have been circulations of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, that I think fits here too.

Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A good means will bring a good end whereas a bad means, no matter how trivial, will bring a bad ends. Let us all remember this in our dealings with other people. No matter what we may think of them, people deserve a basic human respect deserved to us all. And, that respect is shown in the most trivial of correspondence. From the roommate to the work colleague to the family member, we would all do better to approach situations with love rather than hate.

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