punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Watching what you say can pay off

I would honestly say that my life is always interesting. Not a dull moment. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Today is a day with a lot of mystery, and I smell a change in the air. But sadly, I can't mention any of them in my blog, because they are either of a personal nature (for others) or there are financial and legal ramifications for mentioning them before they happen (if they happen).

The last item could be very good news for me. In the long term, not right away. So I am kind of giddy about it at the moment. It's always a nice feeling when someone picks you for something because they trust you and think you have a good skills at what you do.

On that note, I did get a letter from a trusted friend about a comment in my blog. I won't mention who it was, because they meant it to be private, but the lesson I think is too valuable not to share.

You now must be very careful what you say to everyone you meet, for you never know when they will come up to you 10 years later and tell you that conversation, that comment, changed their life. I think this happens to all humans, but being who we are, it happens more to us.

This is very true. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I remember more BAD advice I have given than good advice. My poor friend Donnalee, when she got glasses, I told her to wear them all the time, because my optometrist told me the same thing, and that glasses are not for "occasional use." I pressed her on the issue. Years later, I found out that, yes, some people only need glasses for occasional use, and everyone's eyes are different. My optometrist later told me that he told me "not for occasional use" because I was supposed to wear them all the time, and he was afraid I wouldn't wear them because I might be afraid how they made me look. I never hated my glasses (unless they broke), but he didn't know how hard I fought to get them. His guess was a young teen male would think glasses were "uncool" and not wear them unless he stressed certain points. And I'd say 9 out of 10 times, he'd be right. I was just a rare case.

I have had more people tell me that a random phrase I made up on the spot stuck with them for years, guiding their decisions, than I care to think about. And people I only met once telling me I changed the way they see things. I know these people are out there, saying the very same thing about you. So, even when it seems perfectly harmless, don't make the snarky comment [ ... ] Say it nicely. Even if the person it is intended for never hears it, others will, and your opinion of that person could well become **their** opinion of that person.

Very true. I try NOT to say bad things about people for that very reason, but I have slipped from time to time when my anger gets the best of me. No matter how unimportant we think an offhanded comment can seem, you never know when it may run downhill like a snowball, and grow out of proportion. Everyone puts their own spin on something, and some people exaggerate certain elements. That's why gossip can be so damaging. Let's take a work example. Here's what Betty overheard her boss say:

"There's someone coming down to the office to see how we work, but don't tell anyone because he doesn't want to be treated special."

Betty doesn't know WHY someone would do this, but she tells her friend Susan, "I overheard our boss say that someone secret is coming down to our office to see how we work." Susan tells her assistant Tom, "Tom, they are sending a spy in the next few days to see what we're doing. I don't know why, but it can't be good..." Tom says to Bill and Sara at the lunch table, "I just heard that they are sending spies down to our office to make sure we are actually doing work." Sara is paranoid about her work, and whether it's valuable or not. She also has an issue with drawing sympathy from people, so she says to Roy in the hallway, "Roy, I think my days might be numbered. I heard they are sending spies to our work to see if what we do is valuable. I am afraid they are about to lay off people. It is the end of the fiscal year and everything, and the markets aren't so good. I just hope I can find a job in this bad economy." Roy likes attention, and tell the people in the mailroom that "Layoffs are coming. Better send out resumes!" This rumor grows more and more distorted throughout the day, as people put their own fears and experiences into the mix. But bad news travels fast, and soon, the whole office is expecting Japanese businessmen to come in with clipboards, and evaluate their work. This eventually filters up to management, many who were not aware of any visitors, so they think THEY are being watched.

Yasu is mechanic that works for the building. He's been asked to wander around the offices, checking out thermostats and vents for any abnormalities. He was NOT the guy Betty's boss was talking about, but he is an Asian gentleman with a clipboard. All day he wonders why people act very nervous around him. After all, he's just there to check on the A/C system!

In this case, each and every person contributed to the paranoia. Not one person was a neutral carrier. And the same goes for all of us, all the time. Each and every interaction we have with a person will affect the rest of their day, and maybe even their life. I fully realize this, and try and filter what I say. I don't always succeed. Sometimes I say totally boneheaded things. Sometimes I say things that someone else takes a spin on in a wildly unpredictable manner.

Last year, I made a public comment about this guy I knew who was having a really bad time with this piece of equipment. He rented out carnival equipment, and this one piece was constantly being rented to deadbeats, losing him money, and he was always having to send collectors to his renters, much to his aggravation. I suggested maybe the cart was cursed, and maybe he should have a blessing put on it, or do what the ancient Chinese did: fire off firecrackers and jump around loudly. Immediately someone replied, "I know many Chinese, and they don't do that!" Someone else took this opportunity to also suggest I had made a racist comment. A third person even suggested that I never go to Canada, because buddy, it's full of Chinese immigrants. I got two e-mails from Asian people who said this was a heartless, racist, stereotyped comment. So I posted I was not a racist, provided four supporting web links that proved my point on why ancient Chinese fired off firecrackers, and that I thought the Chinese provided a lot of culture, and invented astronomy, spaghetti, the typewriter, and a ton of other useful contributions to the modern world. But I should have known. I was like being accused of witchcraft or communism. I got a collective "Whatever..." I was so upset, I IM'd my trusted friend Pocky (who is of Korean descent), and asked him if I ever treated him or other Asians we knew in a racist, stereotypical manner. After all, I hosted a celebrity roast for him where I made jokes about growing up in a strict Korean family (because I grew up with a lot of Korean friends). He laughed, and said, "YOU? A racist? Please ... who the hell said THAT?" This is one of the main reasons that will keep me from online communities. I mean, I stayed on that board for another year, and no one brought it up again, but it shows just how unpredictable an innocent, offhanded comment could be.

You can take it as enlightened self-interest, if you are in a selfy mood one day. (As when I would post things privately to people about, um, situations, but not say anything damning - then find out I had just posted it to my whole address book, and by not taking the low road, saved my own skin.)

Same here. The closest I ever got to that error was when I hit "reply to all" when I meant to reply to one guy. It was about a guy who had been laid off, and how creepy it was. It wasn't mean, but on that "reply all" was the guy who had gotten laid off. All I said was something to the effect of, "It was so creepy. He was in a meeting, and suddenly someone came to the door and said, 'Kerry, can I see you for a moment?' and then an hour later, his brother [... who also worked with us ...] came by to pick up his things still left on the meeting table. We never saw him again, we are not allowed to speak about him. It was so Orwellian." That was a slight moral retribution slap on the wrist compared to some incidents I have heard about. I am sure if Kerry still had mail access, he might have been stung a little (or he could have though, "Yeah, not fair!"), but what if I had said, "Man, Kerry sucks ass, ha ha! He got canned! BWAH! That will show him...!"

I try and NEVER make insulting comments to people, even those who I think deserve it, unless I would say it to their face. Because I assume every bad thing I say about someone WILL get back to them (an old Wiccan crede). Even if I am mad at someone, I try and keep the criticism specific to the act, and not the person. Only a few people would I ever outright insult personally, and it never pays off, so I don't know why I do it. Just some asshats make me so mad, but I am the one who lets them make me mad, so I still shouldn't insult them. My bad.

I also always assume my e-mail and IMs are being spied on. I mean, yeah, they probably aren't, but I just assume they are to keep me in check. This journal is seen by many, many people, and will eventually get cached in Google for perhaps decades. I always know what I e-mail, IM, or otherwise could be cut and pasted and used against me, if even by accident. I obviously can't stop lying, out-of-context, or exaggerations ... but I can reduce my pain by keeping my nose clean. At least *I* will feel better, even if only I know the truth.

And thus endeth today's lesson.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000316.html
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