Saturday, March 14, 2009

Raising My Standards

My father was an abusive alcoholic. Everyone learned to hide, say nothing, do nothing that might incite his wrath or attention. No matter what he said, we did not disagree; no matter what he threw at us, we endured. Defiance was painful. At 18, I couldn't want to leave home, but I took these lessons with me.

What I learned served me well, I thought, that is, until I met someone who coveted my job. I thought it only happened in movies that someone could systematically and deliberately destroy another person's career. I did not refute her outrageous statements, I didn't call into question the private meetings and whispers. I believed that my character and intregrity preceded me, that those who knew me would disdain any lies. I continued to do my job the way I always did -- to the best of my ability in the best interests of the company that employed me. What more could they want? Indeed. Humph! In deed, everyone received what they earned.

Experience can be a hard teacher. Sometimes you must stand up for yourself. Silence is regarded as acquiescence. Relationships are neither advanced nor elevated by silence if one is hurt. In essence, I held the door open and invited her in to treat me so shoddily and shabbily. By the time I stood up for myself, it was too late. A new belief system was firmly ensconced and she had my job.

Balance~it's all about balance. Knowing which battles to fight. Can this incident affect my reputation or is the person having a bad day and being a jerk? Will it all be forgotten in a day or two? Or is this incident, however minor on the surface, in the context of an entire relationship, one that needs to be addressed?

It's my observation that when you think you've learned a life lesson, similar incidents arise to test your knowledge. Do you really get it? Or do we need to do this again so that you do?

As it happened. a situation presented itself in another workplace where. I was ready. Based on my prior experience, I felt I must stand my ground. I believed my integrity was being maligned, my intelligence questioned, my willingness to adhere to company policy called into question. It's not easy for me to stand up for myself; I'd rather take on someone else's cause, but I learned not to revert back to my childhood practice of hiding.

I'm not going to bore you with she said/I said/third-party-said seesaw. The details are irrelevant and tiresome. What is relevant is that a person in a position of authority over me called me on the carpet because I was brazen enough to want to understand the intent of the communication sent to me by another person.

The written word is powerful (think contracts, for example). I take written business communication seriously, and if it's about me, well, let's say I take it very seriously. My meeting culminated with my boss saying, "Your standards are too high. You need to lower them. People are never going to meet your high expectations and they will disappoint you. Look and see who and where this is coming from. Take it at face value."

Lower my standards? And do what? Dye my hair blue, wear a backless dress with a bra, don't cross my legs when I sit,chew gum and blow bubbles? Okay. Wait a minute. I didn't actually say those words. However, they were in a huge conversation cloud over my head. (Unfortunately, when I become emotionally involved, rational thinking flies out the window. Try not to do that. You'll lose ground and credibility and any meaningful conversation ceases). Regardless, I'm sure my body language conveyed my repressed thoughts. (Hanging head here.)

The story ends happily. I received a written communication again from the same person, with content and wording similar to the first. And then I got it. I understood perfectly the intent. The writer is a chapter and verse person, quoting line for line from The Policy Manual (imagine deep, echoing voice here). That is her method of communication. No fluff, just fact. Not a lot of tact, just fact. No soft and warm offers of help, and assurances that everyone makes mistakes, that you're forgiven, just the facts' you figure out how to implement them accordingly.

I'm inclined to be nebulous, wandering all over creation, back and forth between the left and right globes of my brain, before my point is made. Having facts, figures, rigid rules and unforgiving expectations thrown at me made me regress to my child's mind--I felt threatened, angry, defensive. As an adult I learned to stand up for myself. But it's someone who's grown UP (up meaning up to our Creator) who can listen with their heart to hear what the other person is saying.

Got it. I'm not lowering my standards. I'm raising them. I'm working on listening with my heart. Speak gently. It's new territory for both of us.

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