Civility has its limits

About six months ago, journalist Liz Clancy Lerner asked me, “Can someone ever be too nice?” My short answer was yes, followed by a number of examples that were obvious, like in cases of violence, rape, and other extreme scenarios.

But recently I thought again about how complex civility can really be. There isn’t a fine line that designates when it is appropriate to be unkind and when it is necessary to play nice.

I typically err on the side of being nice or friendly. I do this to “save face.” That’s how I was raised. What will people think? How will it look if…? That was always the question and primary concern in small town Iowa.

As I grew older I began to embrace the side of me that was more forthright and more assertive – which often times made some family members uncomfortable. But it has been an asset to me many times in recent years, and I’m happy now to own it as part of my persona.

Even still, I have trouble putting my new “assertive Jen” mode to meaningful use. It’s great when I’m joking around, and it comes out full force when I am pushed too far. But what about those middle-gray times when it’s not black and white? I still play nice and save face. And I’m left wondering, “Did I react the right way?”

I work near a spot in town where an art event was going on Friday night. Needing to use the restroom, I knew I could just pop into my work building and use the facilities there. As I walked into the lobby, I saw some familiar faces – cleaning people and the security guard “George.” He is an older man, probably in his late sixties. Unlike a few of his security guard predecessors, George has been professional with me when we’ve interacted. Surprised to see me after work hours, he asked what I was up to, told me I looked nice, and then gave me the key to the ladies room. After doing my business, I returned to George’s desk and made a little light chitchat. I didn’t really care to visit much with him, but thought it was the nice thing to do.

George told me how pretty I looked again. I thanked him – I never mind a good complement. Then he said to me, “You should come back here and sit on my lap.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Could this sweet old man really be making a pass at me? I asked him to repeat himself to ensure I had heard him correctly. “I said, ‘You look so good. Why don’t you come back here and sit on my lap?'” he replied, with a chuckle.

Having been one of many women in that building who had received inappropriate looks and advances from previous security guards, I was well-practiced at my response. “George, you should not talk to me that way. I am a married woman and that is inappropriate. Don’t you realize you can lose your job? Other guards have been fired for this sort of thing.”

George replied, “No, no I doubt that. See, a man can say anything he wants to a woman. As long as he isn’t touching or raping her or holding her arms against a wall he isn’t doing anything wrong.”

“ARE YOU F*@&!#$ KIDDING ME?!” I thought. Did this man seriously just say that?! Yes. And he meant it. He seemed shocked that I thought making those sort of advances was inappropriate in the workplace. I replied, “Well, it’s not okay with me. Don’t talk to me that way again.”

So far so good. Assertive. Civil. Firm. To the point.

Then I did something I don’t understand, and it happens all the time. I reverted to a friendly mode, keeping the mood light but serious, and as I walked away smiling I said, “It’s not cool George. Not cool.” I shook my finger at him. “I’d like to see you try to say that with my husband around. He might not be so nice!” George laughed and I left the lobby.

When I arrived back to my husband I was furious. Furious with George, but angry with myself as well. Why hadn’t my anger been so intense when I reacted to the guard? Why did I feel the need to make nice?

It's hard to find relevant images sometimes. I picked this one because I liked it! Source: http://mystylishbump.blogspot.com/2011/04/think-happy-thoughts.html

I do this all the time – try to smooth things over after a confrontation. Even when I know I am standing on firm ground and am in the right, I still try to gloss over the situation with humor or smiles.

Of course, I was proud of myself for asserting that it was wrong to say those things to me. In the past even that response would be difficult to summon. Let me give you a comparison: 7 years ago my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. One of his family members (not his kids or grand-kids thank goodness) said it was his own fault for getting cancer because he didn’t listen to his doctors. I was highly offended and angry. That is not the sort of thing to say when someone has cancer metastasized to their bones.

But what did I do? I said, “Well, I don’t know about that. I’m sure he listened to his doctors.” Then I talked amiably for a few minutes, gave her a hug saying how lovely it was to see her, and I left (angry on the inside, smiling on the outside). Why? First, I didn’t want to start a family feud. Second? Well, that is what I thought was proper behavior. In 2004. But it’s not “proper” to roll over when someone bad mouths a person you love. And it’s not okay to mislead someone into thinking something is not as serious as you really feel it is by smiling or joking around after the fact.

In the end I am realizing there are times when being nice is completely inappropriate.

George needed to know that sort of behavior was unprofessional. My relative should have been told her statements were offensive. It was my responsibility to be assertive and call them out on their behavior with confidence and gravity rather than alleviate their guilt and discomfort with humor and lighthearted banter. However I may have been socialized as a child, it is my duty to address my fear of conflict, deference to others, and lack of confidence when asserting my perspectives. And maybe next time, I will be able to leave my offender with a bitter taste of honesty rather than the sweet flavor of pseudo-civility.

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You’re just too nice. Seriously.

Last month, in an interview with Liz Clancy Lerner of AllOverAlbany.com, I was asked a question I don’t very often consider:

Can someone be too nice?

Simple answer: Yes.

You know the type: people-pleasing tendencies, lacks self-confidence or an autonomous behavioral compass, and – the obvious one – a doormat. An “emotional tampon” (gross analogy – my apologies, but true don’t you think?).

I hear this one sometimes.... (Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-g-uk/4370496415/)

Last week a friend of mine described his frustration with his neighbor. “Tom” can’t really stand “Sheila.” Sheila is a daddy’s girl with all the entitlements that go along with it. Seriously spoiled, Sheila has no idea how lucky she is, or how nice she has it. Worst of all, she doesn’t make any effort to develop herself financially even with her dad’s support. And this rubs Tom the wrong way – he made his own way in life, and it irks him that someone can be so lucky and so completely ungrateful and complacent.

For some reason whenever Sheila needs something done around the house, she asks Tom for help. Now, I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a “crush” thing. I think it is more of a “substitute daddy-figure when the real dad isn’t around” type of thing. It started innocently enough. When her car was having problems, Tom tinkered with it trying to figure what was wrong. When it had to go to the shop, he’d allow her to come on grocery trips with him instead of making her walk the few blocks to a nearby store.

Sheila doesn’t ask for help anymore. She tells Tom what to do. “Hey, you’re going to need to come over Saturday and fix my sink.” (Reminder: Tom is not a relative, boyfriend, or landlord. Just a neighbor. They don’t hang out as friends.) What did Tom do? Well, he was miffed for sure. And he had plans to hang with one of his buddies on Saturday. He canceled them. When he told Sheila that, she didn’t seem embarrassed or upset he had canceled his plans for her either, and she certainly didn’t make an apology for inconveniencing him or offer an alternative time/date.

What’s more, she doesn’t ever thank him. She complains about how tough her life is, how uncool her dad is (the dad that is her virtual lifestyle paycheck). When Tom’s buddies try to suggest maybe she should make it up to Tom (with baking, or money perhaps), she becomes indignant. At that point her gratitude is a fast retort to flatter her own bruised ego and to save face with Tom’s friends.

And this never ends. Even though it makes Tom angry, he feels trapped. After all, he is her neighbor, her dad is absent and can’t help all of the time, and he does know a lot of handyman skills.

In my estimation, Tom is too nice to Sheila. But perhaps not for the reason some might suspect. Doing nice things for neighbors is what being “neighborly” is all about. My neighbor is elderly, so we do the yard work, snow removal and occasionally grab things for her from the store in inclement weather. It is the “nice” thing to do. And doing nice things without expectation of repayment is a good habit to be in, assuming you are not doing it all the time to your own detriment.

The problem with Tom and Sheila is the lack of gratitude and appreciation on Sheila’s part, which is further complicated by Tom’s inability to meaningfully confront Sheila. Though he suggests a return on his time investment (perhaps bake him some cookies, or give him gas money when he drives her around), he does not cut off his assistance when she doesn’t follow through on reimbursement. Her promises are empty, and his confrontations are on an equally weak foundation.

Tom is becoming more and more irritated with Sheila. As his friend, I offer my sympathies but I also feel like Tom is making his own bed. I believe many of his frustrations lie with his inability to be assertive to Sheila, where before they were attributed solely to her actions.

The lesson here is not necessarily to keep tabs, but to be aware. If you find yourself giving (of your time, attention, funds, or efforts) over and over to the same person without any meaningful return to your investment, perhaps it is time to question your generosity. If the act of giving brings you joy (as doing things for my elderly neighbor does me — plus it’s good karma for when I’m older!), that could be enough. But if you feel your resentment growing, address the problem and be prepared to follow through on the removal of your generosity if the person continues to abuse it. Otherwise you may end up resenting yourself too.

Feeling a little heated–the debate, I mean

It doesn't really relate, but isn't this the best picture, ever?! Source: http://forums.colbertnation.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=5788

Phew! Politics. Goodness! Is it ever NOT a heated debate about something? Not really. This morning, when I groggily popped onto Facebook, I found my friend had posted a link to an article detailing the latest update on the activities of the US House of Representatives. Anymore, politics are a hot topic for an online debate which can get downright ugly, and often these exchanges become pointless in the end.

(Imagine something like this: “I will yell to prove my point.”…. “NO YOU WON’T! I will yell even louder to prove my point and not concede or find common ground!”…. “Well, I’ll just be extreme to prove my point and do it so loudly you are drowned out!”.. . and so on. You get the idea….)

Because I don’t want to get into a debate here which would detract from the point, I am not going to tell you what the posted article was about. But I will tell you how the responses to my friend’s post went (totally paraphrasing here), with my little “I couldn’t resist! I had to weigh in!” reply at the end including my strategy to diffuse the argument into something effective and constructive. (Note: everything is written in first person, so follow the indents and colors.)

🙂

  • THIS SUCKS! WHAT A BUNCH OF BALONEY! The “issue at hand” is important for America! Why is it being attacked? It is so much more than the Congress’s simplified notion of being related to the “bigger issue!” GRRR!
    • I have no sympathy for you because I’m on the other side of the “bigger issue” and I blame the “issue at hand” for much of it.
  • Well, what about problems A, B, and C mister? You ever thought of that? The “issue at hand” is essential for dealing with those things.
    • Oh yeah, I’ve thought of A, B, AND C, but those are taken care of elsewhere. The “issue at hand,” however, is involved with the “bigger issue” so the “issue at hand” is on my naughty list.
  • [Counter-argument from friend #1:] Well, don’t you think “elsewhere” also contributes to the “bigger issue?” It’s not only their fault!
    • I seem to be on the defensive. Now I will use an extreme example to support my argument and detract from the validity of your point, while also illustrating my contempt for the “bigger issue”.
  • [Counter-argument from friend #2:] I don’t think you know anything at all. You sound stupid. Here are the reason facts A, B, and C are so important, and why they make the “issue at hand” so necessary and not evil. The “issue at hand” is separate from the “bigger issue”.
    • Why do you try to confuse the topic? The “issue at hand” is definitely what I’m mad at. The “issue at hand” is to blame 100% for the fact that A, B, and C exist in the first place. If the “issue at hand” didn’t exist and a few other extreme measures did, we wouldn’t have these “bigger issue.”
  • [Continued counter-argument from friend #2:] I am really mad at you now and am going to tell you that you are full of crap. And I’m going to reitirate the need for the “issue at hand” in order to deal with the very real problem of A, B, and C. So there!

At this point the owner of this Facebook page is completely out of the conversation. This has become an all-out Facebook debate-style war. What would happen if the argument was diffused with a little recognition of the complexity of the issue? I decided to test the theory (I swear there may be a formula to this!) while providing a counter-argument as well.

  • [This is me now:]  …. Step 1: I need to inform you of some facts to legitimize the necessity of “the issue at hand” to deal with A, B, and C. Step 2: (This could also come first in many cases:) I recognize your position and the complexity of the “bigger issue”. I am going to use statements that do not begin with “I” or “you” or personal opinions so the energy of the previous confrontations are removed. Now I will gently reassert the importance of recognizing the value in the “issue at hand.”
    • Reply to previous comment from friend #2 with a “my way or the highway, all-or-nothing” agenda. I’m going to come from nowhere to bring up another really “controversial issue” to make my original point more clear.
    • Reply to the new comment comment with a much more chilled out perspective (this is 10 hours later, which proves that “getting some air” might help), citing personal second-hand experience with the “bigger issue” that has shaped my perspective.
  • I choose to ignore your rather simplified–and outrageous–statement about the “controversial issue” in your first reply, because it would cause another angry debate. Instead I am focused on the calmness of your reply and the submission of a personal connection to both of the “issues.” Step 3: I see a common ground here. In a neutral voice, I relate the conceptual basis and underlying facts of human behavior to the “bigger issue” to explain why your extreme solutions won’t work for everyone. Humans are to blame, not the “issue at hand.” Step 4: I restate something about your argument that I can agree on to enforce that you are being heard. I acknowledge your passion for the issue. Step 5: Without using “should’s,” I express my optimism and hope for a way you could communicate your passion that could positively affect others on the “bigger issue” as well as problems A, B, and C. Perhaps you could advocate for the facts at the heart of both the “bigger issue” and the “issue at hand.” Step 6: Express gratitude for the civility in our discourse, which includes listening to my perspective.
    • I feel the change in tone. I am grateful for the constructive idea. I regret being so aggressive with my wordage at the start. Acknowledge my passion. But… what about this aspect of the “bigger issue?” Doesn’t that support my all-or-nothing assertion?
  • Acknowledge the logic of that perspective but cite the inability for any of us to control the actions of others. Praise your own self-control in relation to the “bigger issue” and named problems A/B/C, but discuss that not everyone may have the same extent of control. Acknowledge that there is not one solution, but that the best thing you or any of us can do (in this case specifically) is model the behavior we wish to see in others–or the behavior we see in others that we admire–to try to encourage our viewpoint.
    • Personal account for what informs my perspective and explains my anger. Acknowledge the points offered–“I have something to think about,” I say. I can see the validity in what you say. Expression of gratitude for the exchange.
  • My expression of gratitude as well. (happy face included)

While the guy and I did not come to an agreement on the “bigger issue,” or the “issue at hand,” we both managed to have a civil conversation and we left with perspectives we hadn’t considered before. It reminded me that at the center of many of these arguments is someone who has been hurt, and who may have formed incredibly strong feelings about the issue because of it.

Reading this without the specifics of the argument, maybe it seems very confusing or reactive. And much of the discussion was. The way facts are emotionally communicated seems to produce this super-charged outcome. If people try to find common ground, or be willing to hear the logic of the other’s argument (to suspend their emotional appeal for the moment), we might make headway on many issues. There will always be disagreement. But perhaps our ability to consider the motivations behind our opponents’ viewpoints will yield a better resolution to these controversies than what we’ve seen in the past.

Unfortunately, I know I will always have a chance to test my theory on communication. The good news is that I live in a country where I can communicate my opinions freely and expect them to be heard by someone. What a gift!

🙂 Have a great day!


The weakness in kindness

Aside

 

Image copyright Charles Fincher. Source: http://www.ncbusinesslitigationreport.com/tags/mediation/

There has been a lot of talk lately about civility. Unfortunately this discourse has been born out of the awful shooting in Tucson last week. I wish this discourse had existed on its own merits, rather than as a reactive dialogue to a terrible, highly publicized event. I’m not going to write about the shooting–it has received plenty of coverage lately.  I would like to address the perceived weakness in kindness. My opinion: there isn’t one (unless you are someone’s door mat, in which case you should seek help to avoid being a people-pleaser).

This topic first became of interest to me after a conversation I had with a coworker a few months ago. This person is someone who is friendly and upbeat, but without a moment’s notice will turn on you and take you by the emotional jugular. In short, just when you think you are getting along with this person, “Sam” (I’m being anonymous here with a gender neutral name) will criticize or insult you seemingly without cause. Not exactly the type of person with which I enjoy working!

On one of our “good” days, we were exchanging an email and “Sam” wrote, “I like to be nice to people, but if I’m too nice, people are gonna think I’m weak.”  It made so much sense–so this is why “Sam” is so defensive out of nowhere! I get it–don’t let anyone have the upper hand. Push them away when they get too close and show them who is boss. I just don’t agree with it.

I was saddened when I realized just how many people believe that being “nice” is a way of showing weakness. It is a lot of people. Evidence is all around us demonstrating how being civil in the face of adversity is a fading trend. Today we sue others for speaking rudely, we bully one another for being different and publicize it all over the internet. And for some reason we think that makes us look “strong” and “successful.” TV depicts reality show subjects erupting into fights with one another over frivolous yet dramatic issues; news programs are littered with pundits who use terms like “Nazi” or “terrorist” to describe people who don’t come anywhere near to those insults; our legislature is loaded with impassioned politicians who would rather argue and make fools of each other rather than compromise and make progress. When did we forget to talk things out? When did considering what it’s like to be “in their shoes” fly out the window? How did we forget the importance of maintaining personal integrity by showing compassion, forgiveness, and collaboration?

At the same time, it is immensely encouraging that there is still a desire in every one of us to “get along,” which has been widely exhibited across the country this last week by individuals, by President Obama’s speech in Tucson, and from commentators and writers.  I have also found this to be true based on my daily experiences resulting from the Be Nice. project. Let us not forget the actions of philanthropists, activists, and volunteers. Every day those people show healthy ways to direct their passion into constructive activities which wholeheartedly aim to improve the lives of others.

There is tremendous strength in talking through problems–to constantly seek understanding even in the face of insurmountable odds (which might include dealing with an unwilling adversary).  The civil, kind, and respectful person is of strong character because they are inclined to compromise with their opponent (even if it is a resolution to live in mutual tolerance of opposing viewpoints).

Often the kind and civil person will put their objector at unease. The other may think, “What are they trying to get away with? What is their agenda? They are so fake.” Often the other may mistrust the very genuine kindness you seek to display. This mistrust is not anyone’s failing. It is a result of conditioned behavior. Be patient, be tolerant, and eventually this suspicion may subside. Until then, hold steadfastly your convictions while also being simultaneously open to growth and widening your perspective (your opponent might have a valid point on which you both could find common ground). In politics and in life, being willing to consider the validity of opposing views shows incredible maturity and wisdom, and may result in an expanded outlook for both parties.

Remember too that while free speech in our country gives us all the privilege to speak our minds openly–however hurtful it is to others–we have to choose to communicate them civilly. I hope we all find the inner determination to do so.

President John F. Kennedy once said: “So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” Such perfect words for this time in history.

The Good Show – Radiolab

Did you know at one point in WWI the English and Germans on some front lines ceased fighting and hung out with one another for a week? Or how about the theory that being “good” or “altruistic” just might be encoded into our DNA? These are just some of the things featured this week in WNYC’s Radiolab podcast. For those of you unfamiliar with it, this podcast is both entertaining and informative, and the hosts have a wonderful rapport that is downright charming.

What I enjoyed most I would like to rephrase here with my own little spin on it. Robert Axelrod, professor at the University of Michigan, created a competition based on the prisoner’s dilemma thought experiment to determine which strategy would be best when dealing with complex situations like the Cuban Missile crisis. The tournament involved people who had written papers on the prisoner’s dilemma by asking them to compose computer programs on their theories. Each program would be played against every other strategy program 200 times. Points would accrue each “game” and at the end, one winner would arise. Here were some of the games mentioned in the podcast and their basic strategies:

  • Massive Retaliatory Strike: This program cooperates at first, but after the other program provokes it the MRS program continues to retaliate indefinitely regardless of how the other program responds.
  • Tester: This program basically creates a profile of its opponent through a series of tests. Provoke, learn, provoke, learn, cooperate, learn, and so on.

The winner had only 2 lines of code. It was called Tit for Tat. Here’s how it would behave:

  • First, be nice. (Apparently the word “nice” is in the code!) The program is never the first to incite a problem or confrontation.
  • Second, do equally in return whatever the other program does. So this means Tit for Tat never takes reparations from its opponent in the form of retaliation. It also means it is not a push-over. It doesn’t take the other program’s crap, but it always responds proportionally to the attack. In other words: it doesn’t over-react. And finally, the program goes back to hunky-dory land after that. Square one. Everything is A-OK. (Had enough of the cheesy phrases?! Ha!)

What is exciting about this post you may ask? Well, they theorize that if in a world full of retaliatory people the “nice” people can find one another, those people have a good chance of filling the world with their niceness (a.k.a. winning). Apparently this mode of interaction theoretically brings one the most advantages out in the real world!

Tit for Tat‘s rules reflect the exact actions I think one needs to maintain a pretty pleasant existence. The narrator Andrew Zolli cites the ideal combination of the two rules, saying that the best probable version of Tit for Tat is to be nice 90% of the time, and respond-in-kind 10% of the time. After all, sometimes a person is simply having a bad day and there’s no need to be one of those “right back atcha” kind of people. Why provoke one another when you could be on your merry way?

Thanks for reading and definitely check out the Radiolab podcast here (you can also subscribe for free on I-Tunes):

The Good Show – Radiolab.

That is so gay

This is the #1 result of a google image search using the title of this post. Image source: http://beinglatino.wordpress.com

Have you ever gone to therapy? I have. On three different occasions.  I don’t remember every tool I learned there off the top of my head, but I do remember my counselor saying this: you cannot make anyone feel anything. I was feeling guilt, assuming I made people feel badly even though they probably weren’t feeling anything bad at all, and my counselor was trying to help me realize I shouldn’t hypothesize constantly the impact my words have on others. He said,  “We all choose how we feel when people say things, whether we feel good or bad. We are responsible for our own emotions, not for everyone else’s. If we hurt someone’s feelings, they have a responsibility to tell us so.” But that got me thinking (probably way off of where the counselor was going with his point, but whatever! It’s still an interesting thing to consider…). Is that always the case? Am I never to blame for how others feel as a result of something I said or did?  If I cheated on my husband and he felt hurt, angry, dejected, and insulted, does this mean I can release some of the blame for the way he would be feeling? I don’t think it works quite this way, and while I know I would never take advantage of this perspective, I am sure there are thousands of people out there who would.

Like this guy I knew once upon a time, who regularly said unnecessarily cruel and critical things to unsuspecting people, all-the-while using the disclaimer, “Hey, don’t get mad at me. I’m just being honest.Yeah right. My theory is this guy got sadistic pleasure out of making people feel insecure or miserable. Messing with people’s heads was this dude’s personal enjoyment. I imagine he was doing it because he  wanted others to be as miserable as he was; or maybe that was just his personality; or maybe he really did think that was how psychology students were supposed to behave, as he said on many occasions. But the truth is, what he said made people miserable and it gave him pleasure. Whether or not what he said was true was not nearly as important as what were his motives. And those were selfish and unkind in nature. Lucky for us, there aren’t too many of people like this guy wandering around. No,… I would say, mostly all of us do our fair share offending and being the offended.

People say and do things that hurt people’s feelings all the time. Often people hurt others without the self-awareness to realize why they behave as they do (like girls in junior high who rip on other girls because deep down they are insecure about themselves).  They don’t fully understand why they are doing it, and don’t necessarily care to find it out. It’s just easier to keep doing what feels good.

And more commonly there are people who hurt others’ feelings without ever intending to do so, and without realizing what they said could be hurtful. Many times they are ignorant of what they are saying. Take the people who say, “That’s retarded,” or, “I jewed him down,” or, “I got gypped,” or, “That’s so gay.” Now, I’m not trying to be the language police. Matter of fact: I am a major user of swear words–it’s a vice I try to avoid but cannot eliminate, and often it’s one that I indulge pleasurably. In issues of language there are people on both sides of the fence (homosexuals who say, “That’s so gay,” and so on), but depending on your audience, those phrases can offend people. And this is something we should try to be aware of. My swearing offends people, and presents me in a less-than-flattering light, so I need to choose my audience carefully. And what the offended folks must remember is: some people don’t realize what they are saying is offensive. It might be a cultural thing, it might be badly phrased, it might be slang.  So before reacting, try informing them first. We’re all guilty of this offense in some form at one time or another.

And finally, there are the people who say 100% innocent things that are only offensive to a particular person with a particular point of view or private history. Everyone has had experiences we cannot know ahead of time that shape their attitudes and perceptions, and often something we say innocently can offend others.

So how can we manage this fact in a world where people are (endlessly!) offended by any number of things?

First, have compassion if you have been offended. You’re no perfect plum yourself.

Second, I say operate on this principle of forgiveness: unknowing offenders should be forgiven immediately–and when worthwhile–the offender should be informed of your feelings (nicely!) to help them avoid repeat occurences. Try not to judge their character, when it could be a simple issue of misinformation or ignorance. But do take note of those who are continually offensive, mean, or corrosive to others’ self-esteems and identities. Those people are toxic and should probably be called out on their behavior, or avoided. In those cases, chalk it up to their personality, and don’t waste time or energy being hurt by their musings. State your position, be open for a good dialogue, and if all else fails, deny that bummer-of-a-being your totally awesome friendship! There are tons of people out there just waiting to offend you unintentionally! Better you spend your energy on them!

Conan is awesome

image source: http://ozonetv.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/conans-all-time-favorite/

Conan on Rolling Stone magazine. (image source: ozonetv.wordpress.com)

My husband and I couldn’t stay up late to watch the entire last episode of Conan on the Tonight Show Friday night. But luckily thanks to Hulu we watched it last night! I have always loved Conan and his sense of humor–I loved his show more than any of the other late night hosts’ shows. But on that last show, I was more impressed with him than ever before. At the end of the segment, Conan explained that he did indeed have the right to say anything he wanted about NBC. And out of all the words he could have spoken, Conan spent those moments thanking NBC for being so good to him for twenty-plus years. Yes, he acknowledged their differences, but then focused on the much more substantial positive experiences he has had with NBC for the two decades earlier. 

We can all take this attitude to heart: how many marriages get caught up in petty arguments, ignorant of 20 years of good times? How many employees grow with resentment or indifference with a job that at one time gave them challenges, excitement, meaning, and fulfillment? Conan’s speech reminds us that people change, our desires change, and this is all very natural. But we cannot turn a blind eye in our frustration to the goodness and growth we gained from our experiences, no matter how they may end up.

He closed his speech with a note about cynicism and being kind.  It was beautiful and something so many people need to hear every day. I have a great deal of respect for him for this particular part of his speech. Here is an excerpt:

[To my fans]…all I ask is one thing…. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you are kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you! It’s just true! It’s true!…

Absolutely beautiful words. Couldn’t agree more!