Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Try Grace

In the world of Women in technology, the most recent discussion has been about how to be nice while still getting ahead.  This is courtesy of Sheryl Sandberg, and I am a big fan of this idea.  I think she is right.  And so do many other people.  Suddenly there are a ton of books with titles like “Nice Girls Can Finish First.”  “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It,”  “How to be a Lady in Business,” and “Too Nice for Your Own Good.”  All implying that to “win” or to “get it” you have to be something resembling a warthog.
I don’t think this is quite what Sheryl Sandberg means.  I don’t mean to speak for her, and I am not good at the tag lines or “up speak questioning” cadence in my speech patterns.  But I can’t help but think about my mother who has always said that you can be as rude about things as you like as long as you are polite about it.   I do not do well with rude on purpose for any reason, and i do not simper.  I am instead straightforward and I need to learn to tone it down.
This does not mean to be vapid, or to say those three little words women are taught to quickly say whenever there is a conflict: “Oh, that’s okay.”  Because, very often, it isn’t.  It isn’t okay that someone just walked over your idea or talked over you or discounted what your education and skills show you know.  It isn’t okay when someone comments on your looks instead of your words.  It isn’t okay.  Instead, say “Thank you” when someone says they are sorry.  I learned this when someone did not rsvp to a baby shower I threw, and instead called the honoree three hours before the party to let HER know of attendance.  Tacky.
So when this woman brought it up to me at the shower by saying something off the cuff like “Ohmigosh, I have just been so busy and mommies have such limited time and I am so sorry that I did not respond earlier . . .” I simply replied “Thank you.  I am glad you could make it out since you are so busy,” and smiled at her.  Her eyes got big, and she scurried past me. 
I think she got it because I did not say it was okay.  I did not tell her that her rudeness was okay.  I responded graciously, and she still got the message.  So I think this is the way to do it.  Everything I have heard about Sandberg leads to one conclusion, she is gracious.  As hard as it is not to point out someone else’s rudeness, I think a better point is to move around it as if it didn’t happen.  When something is acknowledged it becomes true.  If you ignore it, then you can pretend that the person who has behaved badly gets another chance.  This is, to people who are self aware, a blessed thing.  It puts them in your debt.  To the un-self-aware, not acknowledging their behavior gives them no reward.  It is called negative reinforcement.
Either way, you win.  And you were nice.
I thing Sheryl's meaning is to always be gracious, and since most people don't know what that truly means, the closest thing she had to communicate the idea was "nice."
  Try Grace

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