When I was a teenager I found girls behavior very difficult to understand: for example, when they said ‘yes’ or ‘perhaps’, what they often meant was ‘no’ or ‘extremely unlikely’. I spent many an hour trying to work out what was going on in their minds. No matter how hard I tried I could not find any logic. My male advisors reassured me that it was pointless to search any further because there wasn’t any.
At the age of fifty five I find that what I observed all those years ago is in fact not gender related at all and that the biggest culprits in misrepresenting ones true feelings are indeed men. We like to give the impression of being rational and logical and open speaking; but if only this was the case in reality.
Every day I observe businessmen remaining polite and neutral on the surface while deep down suffering extreme disappointment or even anger. This is especially true in the classic boss / subordinate relationship. So when I hear men say “It’s alright, it doesn’t matter’ in fact I know that there is a good chance that they are in fact feeling the complete opposite. They might leave the room with a smile on their face and offer a friendly handshake, but inside they may feel broken and disrespected. They are likely to moan to their colleagues and later go home to their partners and do the same there. And all the while their bosses say to me “I never realized that he was so upset, why didn’t he say something?”
Communication is complex stuff and we proud males of the species make it so. The next time someone says to you “forget it, it doesn’t matter” remember there is a good chance that it does matter and they won’t forget it, even if you do. In fact it might even come back at you many years later. We humans have a long memory for people that treat us disrespectfully.
In my case if I say “It doesn’t matter” there is a good chance that it does. The only difference is I will often talk about it when I am calmer, sharing my feelings in an open and honest way – when the time is right, when my words can have the most productive impact. And if I don’t do that, well then you may never hear from me again!
For the last twenty six years I have tried to live by a saying from The Religious Society of Friends or ‘Quakers’ as they are commonly known: “speak truth to power”. This piece of advice has not always been easy to follow but, by and large, it has served me well. I have only one proviso though: in business as in personal relationships, sometimes people are not yet ready to hear what you have to say and that sometimes, just sometimes, it is best to wait for the right time and place before they are ready to face the truth you want to bring them. This can be a matter of a few minutes or a matter of weeks or months, even years. In any case – speaking truth to power is right principle; all you need do is to learn to live by it.
Have a good week,