Well, you’re no day at the beach either

Sometimes, you need a humorous, but truthful line to get a friend, acquaintance, colleague or relative off a rant about someone. I was out walking and I heard three women approaching me and one was on a proverbial roll. I kept walking after smiles and hellos, as this was one conversation I did not want to hear or a be a part of. It got me thinking of something that can be said to stop the rant.

A line I used to use more often is to simply say, “Well, you’re no day at the beach either.” To me, this is a funny way of getting the person to realize he or she is also not perfect. If he or she is even more reflective, the thought that someone could be talking about him or her in the same manner, might bubble up.

In my previous post, I mentioned a colleague who listened to a new senior executive talk about every person who left the restaurant table at dinner. My colleague said he was scared to go to the restroom as he would be the next subject of discussion. Having met said senior executive, like me, she is no day at the beach, either.

These two walkers with the ranting walker were a captive audience. It would be hard to exit, unless they said something like “I need to run some.” At parties, the exiting of rant-filled conversations is an art. Once the rant starts, the listener (or I should say non-talker), is looking for that exit ramp, be it a person, drink or restroom break. The unlucky person who walks up to join the conversation, will usually be a convenient hand-off as you gracefully exit. The deft person might even pair the two together with a suggested theme.

Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of “defending the absent” when someone is on a rant about another person. This may not be the course of action for everyone, but it certainly is a noble pursuit. Defend the person who is not there. I think the more common tactic is the exit ramp example, where you simply vote with your feet and leave the conversation.

But, if you are so inclined and need a one liner, the title above will serve you well. It makes the person think. Having been a manager of people in my career at some point, when subordinates rate their own performance, almost always, they rate themselves better than “meets expectations” or better than what the supervisors rate them. Yet, statistically if “meets expectations” is normative, then everyone cannot be better than meets expectations.

It is one explanation of why people rant. The ranter forgets he or she is not perfect and has made mistakes. So, a funny reminder will bring the person back to earth. While I try to be diplomatic, my poor wife hears my rants or comments more than anyone. So, when a relative or friend wants to discuss politics, she will look for the exit ramp if we go too long.

None of us are a day at the beach, me included. Even those PYTs that need not worry as much about how they look in a swim suit are not perfect. Real beauty is more than skin deep. We are all fixer uppers, so we should remember that before and when we rant.

Tea for Tuesday with a spoon of Dyerism

My youngest son has exposed us to cold brewed tea using both caffeinated tea and flavored teas with turmeric, hibiscus, ginger, lavendar, orange or lemon zest, etc. The tea brews with natural sunlight over the course of a morning. What I like about them is no sugar is needed as the flavors stand on their own. So, it is refreshing.

So, get yourself a soothing or refreshing drink in hand, sit down in the morning rays, and let me share a few miscellaneous thoughts.

My wife and I are not Royalty watchers, but we did catch the latest installment on Lifetime of the Harry and Meghan travails. Realizing these kinds of things have a little truth mixed together with hearsay and supposition, there are a couple of takeaways. If true, why does the Royal family and their staffs spend so much time reading trashy gossip magazines? I must confess the only time I pay attention to these things are when checking out at the grocery store, but primarily for my own bemusement. The other take away is no matter what one feels about Meghan, there is both a subtle and overt racist element to her press that goes unchecked. I realize fully that the Royal family does not like to comment on the magazines they read so much of, but it truly is opportunity lost to condemn in strong times that we are better than this as a country.

This search for perfection in the actions and statements of people, entities or institutions is a futile endeavor. Let me save everyone a lot of trouble. Just like with individual people, there are no perfect groups of people or organizations of people. This would include those who are calling foul. Past actions are important, but we must understand a couple of things. Severity is important. Context is important. On the latter, anyone can be made to look foolish taking his, her or their words out of context. But, severity (and repetition) matters. Not to condone any actions, but saying something sexually insensitive is not as severe as sexual assault. Saying something sexually or racially insensitive over time is worse than saying it once. Also, how long ago did the infraction occur matters as does what have they done lately? This does not give anyone a hall pass, just asks for better scrutiny.

As an example, the Reverend Billy Graham lamented that he was in the Nixon White House and did not push back on the president for his racist and ethnic slurs. Apparently, Nixon’s colorful language was not unusual. Graham was in a better position than anyone to counsel the president on his words and tone. My guess is he was looking for any door to escape, but that is beside the point. Graham was embarrassed when his silence was discovered on the released Nixon tapes of conversations. It goes without saying, Graham was a very fine person and spiritual leader nonetheless.

I pair these two stories together, as we need more of what Dr. Wayne Dyer used to call “defending the absent.” When his children would gossip about someone, he would defend the person not present. His point is it is not right to talk about someone behind their back. Graham missed an opportunity to say simply, “Mr. President, I must confess I do not appreciate your tone and comments about others. You can choose to feel that way, but it makes you look smaller when you do.”

In the Royal family movie, they debated on whether Charles, William or Harry could react. Harry did on one occasion, but wanted to do more. But, truthfully the Queen is the one who should have made an overarching statement. “We are better than this. It is one thing to disagree with someone, but to denigrate someone because the person is perceived to be different is uncalled for and inappropriate.” It should be noted that 80 members of Parliament signed a petition of reprimand for these racist attacks in the press, so I am not just talking out of turn.

I am imperfect. I have said, written and done some stupid things. I try to do the right things, but sometimes fall short. But, I am not alone. We must shine spotlights on behavior we do not like, but we should also recall we have our own blemishes. But, I would suggest we do so in the manner and style of Dr. Dyer. He is one who would criticize privately and praise publicly. He would defend the absent, a very noble endeavor.

Defend the absent

Dr. Wayne Dyer was a prolific author and speaker introducing many to his life coaching skills. He had a common sense, not-preachy way of offering his counsel. One of my favorite lessons of his is to “defend the absent.”

What does that mean? When his children would speak ill of a classmate, he would take up for that person. When his children would complain, he would say, since he or she is absent from this conversation, I thought I would defend him or her.

His point was two-fold. First and foremost, no one is perfect. No one. Second, talking about someone without knowing all of the circumstances, does not permit the target of the criticism to defend him or herself. Not that they did not do wrong, but they are not there to defend themselves.

I mention this today as there seems to be open game on anyone with a public history. We seem to judge past actions based on current norms that oversimplifies the issues and context of the day. I am not defending or condemning any decision, I am saying context is important.

As an example, LBJ was a good public servant, but coarse man. There was no better leader to navigate major legislation on Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Often, he offended people who wanted him to move faster or not move at all. Yet, he horse-traded his way through and these bills were signed into law. He appealed to people’s better angels, knowing he would likely drive some folks from his party.

Former Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden is a good person and public servant. He may or may not be the best candidate for President, but his long history will reveal the good, the bad and the ugly of governing. He is known to be a collaborator and, in spite of the opinions of strident party members on both sides, we are in need of collaboration to get things done. Collaboration is not a dirty word.

So, as Democrats consider candidates, please do so through the lens of context and defense of the absent. Why did someone vote a certain way? Why did they compromise with someone who would make your blood boil? What favor was traded to get a key bill passed?

Defend the absent. There are no perfect people. Even Mother Theresa had faults and doubts, and she was one of the finest people to walk the earth.

I was scared to leave the table

We have all been around people who openly denigrate others in front of us. For some reason, they feel by putting others down, it elevates them. In actuality, the opposite occurs. It shines a negative light on the speaker.

An old colleague framed the issue nicely, when he related to me the title of this post.  Let me offer some context. He was at a business dinner with several senior colleagues, including a new executive. Apparently, she liked to talk about people, so as each person left table to go to the restroom, she would express the negatives she had heard about that person seeking concurrence. After seeing her do this with three people, my colleague said, “I was scared to leave the table.”

He wisely assumed, if she talks about others, she would also talk about him. This is not a very endearing trait regardless of one’s gender. It is even more true when a person in leadership does it. Namecalling, denigrating, bullying and pitting people against each other is not leadership.

Please remember my colleagues’ words. If someone talks about others in your presence, take it to the bank, he or she will do the same about you. What should you do – don’t take the bait? Life coach Wayne Dyer would suggest you even defend the absent. At a minimum, try to change the topic. But, picture that person and how you would feel.

 

Bless his heart or God love him, we are all imperfect

There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.

“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.

We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.

So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”

Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.

We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!