What does that mean in your life? For me, it means we shouldn't ignore things that stand in the way of communication or relationships with other people. Whether at work or at home, there will always be those little things that get under our skin: the teacher down the hall that talks so loud, I have to shut my own door to hear myself teach; the neighbor whose dogs bark incessantly when I try so hard to keep mine from making any sound when they are outside; the custodians who stand in the hallway at school and argue with each other; and the list goes on, ad infinitum.
But the real issue is what we do about those things. I heard someone say the other day that they use their middle finger to tell other drivers what they think of their driving. Somebody please tell me when, in the history of the universe (or at least with the advent of cars), do you think someone who has just been "communicated with" by the middle finger of another driver all of a sudden says, "Gee, that really makes sense. I am going to make a pact that I will be a more conscientious driver from now on." I am guessing the odds are better to play the lottery. So, perhaps, within the confines of our own car is likely not the time or place to speak our truth (or, worse yet, only our own perception of the truth).
But for so many of us who work in the field of education, what we do and how we communicate is a model (intentional or not) for students who will become the adults of tomorrow. And, by the way, for people like Dave and me, who don't have human children of our own, these future adults will likely be, as Dave says, "changing my diapers someday". I'd prefer they have really good role models in the areas of respect and communication (they can learn the diaper-changing skills later on). When I walk in a school and hear two staff members arguing with each other in the middle of the hallway, my first thought is: I am not the only one hearing this exchange. The 1st graders who are walking to Music class are hearing it as well. But people argue, right? That is simply a fact of life. The issue is: how, when and where we do that.
For myself, I find it difficult, any more, to let something that is bothering me build up to the point that it warrants a blow-up. Instead, my serenity and peace of mind have become more important than traffic. But that doesn't mean I don't address something that is bothering me. On the contrary, if I have a poor experience with a hotel stay, for example, I will be upfront about it. Not long ago, I stayed at a lovely hotel for work. The check-in went seamlessly, the room was clean, and I had a nice view of the parking lot (well, you can't have everything, right?). However, I awoke two hours into my slumber to what I thought was a person IN my room (I was staying by myself, so nobody should be in my room). Sitting up, I listened. Nope. Nobody was in my room, but the guy next door might as well have been, as he was snoring, and I could hear him, loud and clear! Nice hotel, thin walls. When the hot water during my shower ran out, I found myself doubly frustrated. Not a great night's sleep and then I don't get hot water? Instead of raging, however, I simply stopped at the front desk and let them know what they could fix (the hot water) and what they likely couldn't fix (thin walls). The front desk manager credited me some points to my hotel loyalty account for my trouble, and he told me they were extremely sorry. Had I simply gone on my way, complaining to everyone ABOUT my stay, or run ranting to the front desk manager, I likely still wouldn't have had a great night's sleep nor would I have some extra points in my hotel account. In other words, speaking up in a respectful way pays off.
The same holds true for educators who work with each other every day. I have been privileged enough to witness first-hand, as an administrator, teachers and staff who found ways to talk through problems they were experiencing in their relationships.
As a professor, I witnessed two of my online students do this exact thing this week. While they had disagreed on a particular issue in the discussion thread, they both apologized to each other for their miscommunication and resolved to think before "speaking" in the future. That, to me, is how communication and relationships are supposed to work! I pray this will be the case for you, today and every day!
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