At a friend’s wedding, a clown, Mrs. Zippy was entertaining the kids. Her name was clever (like Mississippi), but it was also a functional reminder to keep my lips zipped when I was tempted to tell potentially embarrassing stories about the groom.
I’ve been known to “get on a roll” making people laugh, hurting feelings in the process. So, I told myself I should practice being Mrs. Zippy instead of Ms. Zinger:(.
It is significant how much more airspace there was when I took time to think before I spoke and how much more I found out about others when listening rather than talking.
I first posted this story in 2011.
I apologized for another “Ms. Zinger” mistake two days ago.
Sadly still working on it, but, at least, more aware.
The first step I must take in order to become the very best version of myself is to pay attention to my thoughts and words. Besides catching myself saying negative things, I also review my conversations to catch the times I exaggerated, wasn’t completely honest, or talked too much.
When I take the time to really hear myself, it is sometimes painful, yet, that pain gives me more incentive to grow and change.
While working as a middle manager I was very irritated with my boss for not giving me the recognition I deserved until…in an awkward transaction, I realized my employees were irritated with me for the very same reason.
Since then, I have noticed how easy it is for me to totally blast away at someone else’s cluelessness while completely missing my own.
The following routine helps me be less of a nincompoop:
- Before I open my mouth with a swift condemnation for someone else, I ask myself (with the excruciating humility it takes to be completely honest), “Have I ever done anything similar?”
- If the answer is “Yes.” or, “I don’t know,” I postpone judgement. In most cases, my memory will pull up something embarrassing within a few hours. Then, I decide to show mercy to the offender (as I hope others will show mercy to me) before I move ahead.
- If the answer is no. I thank God that I dodged that bullet, ask myself if I can address the issue proactively, and then, show mercy to the offender. (I never know when I’ll need some mercy in the future.)
I told my husband (and myself) that I was finally convinced that I could not multitask as well as I thought I could, AND, that I would try not to listen to audios or talk on my phone while I was parking or driving in traffic. Today, I crashed into a parking garage pillar because I was listening to audios while backing out. Two results:
- Expensive reinforcement that I should do what I said I would do
- Costly reminder of one good reason that I should take my commitments seriously enough to “do” instead of “try”
I was very lucky that I didn’t hit someone, instead of something.
In business there is a big financial difference between try and do. In life, the difference is more costly: a difference calculated in lives and relationships.
This I know is true:
All of us are trying to get around the block with the least amount of pain.
Most of us are still learning how to do that without shoving other people off the sidewalk.
Sometimes we are completely unaware that we have shoved someone else off. Sometimes we are aware, but don’t know how to get what we want without doing it, so we proceed and justify ourselves.
When I get shoved around by someone else, it is good for me to remember that I have also, at times, been the one doing the shoving.
However, self-righteous, wholesale condemnation of others is much easier.
Said something that prompted 1) cringing, 2) lies and arguments, 3) someone else’s pain, or 4)”What were you thinking?”
If so, there’s only one way out: a big bite of humble pie topped with full responsibility.
Easier said than done, right?
I have way too much practice with these unfortunate scenarios, so can offer tips that help me recover productivity and sanity more quickly:
- remember how much I value apologies and respect those who give them
- realize that the offended party is ALREADY thinking about the offense, so “leaving well-enough alone” is self-deception
- admit that no one ever thought I was perfect to begin with, so, my reputation is not at stake
Notice that “Part 4” about how we justify ourselves is not on this list.
Ignorant Pain, n. Foolish suffering or frustration usually accompanied by complaining or fretting. Could have been prevented by using Google, apps, asking for help, or reading; see
- Putting up with bad cell-reception at home because I didn’t know I could get a free signal booster from my service provider
- Reinventing the wheel because I didn’t know there were “apps for that”
- Feeling all alone in my pain because I didn’t watch TED, YouTube, or read blogs about other people with the same issues
- Missing easy fixes because I was too ashamed or embarrassed to be honest
Not even mentioning missed career, business, and love opportunities because I decided to believe there was nothing that could be done.
Do you foolishly give up too quickly or…
But, it might be helpful to keep in mind that we have all said, and will continue to say stupid stuff, regardless of how smart we think we are.
Photo courtesy of jcmcculley.com
Lincoln was so totally and completely himself that he was often criticized for his public tears and melancholy, and perceived as being weak by his critics.
An English journalist, after visiting the U.S., wrote, “Abraham Lincoln was regarded as a failure. Why he was elected, nobody, to this day, seems to know.”
Edward Everett, Senator and Harvard professor observed, “He is evidently a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.”
Who was more mental? Lincoln or his critics?
Since we are all subject to being so wrong when we think we are so right, why not lighten up about ourselves? We only need to look back and remember the stupid stuff we have said and done to be reminded.
The owners of the bar in Dallas where this was posted are sadly regretting it today.
As in this case, we often say stupid things unintentionally because we…
- Fail to look at the world through the lens of others first
- Forget to be sensitive to the silent suffering of those around us
- Think it’s all about us
- Will say anything for a laugh
Years ago, when I was in college, a friend told me that I often hurt others’ feelings by the witty things I said, but I thought he was overreacting and didn’t listen. I owe many apologies as a result.
“You are the master of the spoken word, but a slave to the words that should have remained unspoken.” – Lincoln