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There's a double-standard we talk about at the office sometimes that boils down to this: if a man is aggressive, he's called a leader. if a woman is aggressive, she's called a bitch.

but what exactly are we supposed to do with that enlightening bit of information, besides hear it and say "well that's bullshit!"

obviously, first, it's about questioning our reactions to others ("have I called anyone a bitch lately?")

but then I get introspective and wonder about myself because I've been told that my direct approach to communication is 1) a great asset and 2) something that I need to "filter".

and being female only complicates the issue further... I think it makes my blunt tear-downs in meetings more memorable. oh, and one guy made that snarly cat noise at me once (he's gone now). bottom line, when I'm told I was aggressive it makes me wonder "now, would they say that if I was a man?"

and I do hear that some men are too aggressive. actually "bully" is the word that gets thrown around. or there's the typical engineer-who-says-no-to-everything syndrome that comes up a lot.

yesterday I had a short talk with a higher-up woman who seemed to be challenging me a bit to stick to my ambitions, and this topic of aggression came up. I couldn't figure out what she was telling me... get out there, take the ball and win the game on one hand. but she admitted she "filtered" a lot and said diplomacy was important if I wanted to be a leader.

random story from my sports days: in track and field one of the worst races is the 400 meter dash. it's a sprint, but it's long. A coach told me once, "I know that you know how to pace yourself, but just once, try to run this like a stupid freshman who goes out crazy in the first 100 meters. Just to see what it feels like, remind yourself you can do it, and see if a fast first half gets you a better overall time, even though it goes against common advice."

is diplomacy like that? something you have the ability to do, try it out, show people you've got it, then you get back to running the smart race you've always run, which is about letting everyone see you blow by them right before the finish line?

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
browngirl
Mar. 18th, 2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
something you have the ability to do, try it out, show people you've got it, then you get back to running the smart race you've always run, which is about letting everyone see you blow by them right before the finish line?

Sometimes, I think.

'Diplomacy' is one of those words expected to hold a lot in its brief confines. For me it means, among other things, trying to understand people a little, to figure out what they will and won't hear, so I can better convey the message I want to send so that it will be heard. SOmetimes, bluntness is indeed the very best tool for that job.

However, because 'diplomacy' is such a catch-all, it gets judged so subjectively. If someone gets upset, diplomacy is held to have failed, even though that person may be upset for reasons not the speaker's fault. (Or it might be the speaker's fault. It can be too easy sometimes to let oneself off the hook.)
astrogeek01
Mar. 18th, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC)
I don't have any advice, but if you figure it out let us all know...
mrs_dragon
Mar. 23rd, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
I think diplomacy is, in part, about knowing when to be blunt and when not to be. It's about trying to see things from the other side and work with people when possible. But sometimes, it's not possible and then all the vague hand wringing in the world won't get you there.

That said, I tend to be very candid. I'm not generally considered aggressive, and I do try to phrase things as nicely as I can, but I am considered obnoxiously persistent at times. At others, I'm seen as unreasonable, because I'm unwilling to meet in the middle. *shrugs*

I try to focus more on what works best with the people I am dealing with. Does this one need everything coated in 10 lbs of sugar but that one will miss the point entirely if I don't overstate it?
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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