Is my rude behavior your fault?


Well of course it isn’t, I am responsible for my own behavior.  How you interpret my behavior is your business.   I had a friend who used to say

If there are two ways to interpret what I said, and one of them is going to get me in trouble, please assume I meant the other one.

Not a bad policy actually.  

You’ve probably noticed, that I’m on an empathy kick these days.  I’ve been attempting to closely monitor my reactions, doing everything in my power to subscribe the best intentions to others, especially when my first reaction is otherwise.   

This week, someone pointed out yet another annoying tendency I have, that does a great job illustrating a difference between my intent was from how it is perceived

I am inclined to use the word “my” in a description of people.  For example, I will frequently refer to Amy as My Strategist.  What I mean by this language, is that I greatly admire Amy and I am glad I am on her team.  I use this language to make clear that I would be devastated if any other team were to steal her away.  This is how I feel about great people that I work with.  When I say “my” I am not implying that I think these people report to me.

So, you can imagine how surprised I was, when I heard that others are perceiving me to be pushy and arrogant when I do this.  Wow.  This completely took me aback.  If (when) the roles are reversed I feel good when people use similar language about me.  It would never have occurred to me that someone might find this offensive.

What is great about this example, is that someone was kind enough to point it out to me.  Now, I can attempt to find a better way to express myself.  By clarifying how they interpreted my language, I am able to communicate in a way that is less likely to be offensive.  Instead of assuming I’m a jerk, they gave me the benefit of the doubt.

I think that everyone could benefit from the following habit.  When someone says (or does) something that you find annoying

First: Ask yourself if maybe there is another way to look at their actions that would do a better job giving that person the benefit of the doubt. 

Second: If, attempting to see it a different way doesn’t work and you still find yourself annoyed, then find a way to let them know what is bothering you.

I would respectfully suggest, if you don’t have  the courage to do these steps, then maybe your behavior is equally offensive.


PS for those of you who are married and/or related to me, who are very quick to tell me what I do wrong, and who know full well my intentions, all I can suggest is that you remember what cute children I brought into this world for you.

2 thoughts on “Is my rude behavior your fault?

  1. Meg – though I am rather frightened by your level of self-reflection in 2009, I have to admit this one (the “my” thing) has got me thinking. Do I do that? Does it bother me? Who would it bother and why? I guess I have always thought of it as a term of endearment in the workplace, asserting a sense of belonging and connectedness. However, to be called “my” and to NOT feel that sense of belonging and connectedness could be threatening. So, in the spirit of fairness and equality, I will try my best to add a non-property qualifier to my “My’s” and, if you “My” me, please just make sure I belong.

  2. @Amy I can’t imagine a situation where you wouldn’t belong. I am now hitting the googles to figure out what a “non-property qualifier” might mean 😉

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