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Should I say or should I no?

Posted in Life & Love, Relationships, and Women's issues

IMG_0684161I’ve been battling to try write a piece on keeping my mouth shut sometimes … because mainly I am ok with the things I’ve said. I know they made my life difficult, that I made enemies who held a grudge, that I hurt feelings, and that I ended up getting fired at least twice because of it. But I can honestly say two things: what I said was mostly true and honest, and the consequences, however bad at the time: turned out ok.

But not always.

When I started this post – I was thinking something else. I was thinking that I would write about all the times I wish I had kept quiet and not said what was on my mind. “Keep your mouth shut sometimes”, was part of my advice to a 17-year old me. And it is good advice. Sometimes it is best to say nothing.

It would have been a good decision when I corrected my boss. I was 20 or so and we all were sitting after-hours in the company bar and he was holding forth about Taoism. He is one of those men that smile with his teeth. The eyes don’t get involved. I corrected his pronounciation – he fired me a few weeks later. I know why I went there. This supposed paragon of zen virtue was banging one of the art designers. And taking his wife and kids out for dinner after. While my pal sat next to my desk and cried.

I got fired again a couple of years later for refusing the advances of a man I worked with. Actually, it was more than that – there were a cabal of guys at the office that felt women should be shut in cupboards until they were needed. I disagreed with most everything they said. And said so. My immediate boss, TJ, kept me safe as long as he could. But then I said No to a mean man, when I was expected to say Yes. And suddenly I wasn’t the remotest bit amusing anymore.

keep-calm-and-say-what-you-think-1

Now there’s a time I should have said something – it may have saved my job. But I was afraid I would become a marked person in the music biz – and be unemployable. So I shut up. And he got away with it. Though, he was sent to Nigeria a year later for generally being an asshole and useless. Which had been my point all along. I got to pay off my debts with the serverance pay, and go on to get the job at Warners, where I worked for almost 19 years.

But the stress of trying to find that job in a London ravaged by recession, was massive. And something I promised I would do my best to avoid by learning to keep my thoughts to myself. Until I couldn’t shut up again.

What you see is what you get with me. I have this need to be transparent, I battle to lie. I won’t cheat, steal or connive. I don’t like being managed and I won’t promise something I can’t deliver. I don’t know where all that came from – oh come on, who am I kidding? I do know: Catholicism, guilt and shame – overall, have served me well.

My favourite boss at Warners told me early on that I had to learn to speak English. “You may think you speak the same language as they do. You may think they understand you because you use the same words, but trust me mate, they don’t.” He (an Australian who was talking what he had walked) was telling me to observe the social conventions, to follow conversational rules, and to shut the hell up sometimes.

I am not malicious nor am I unkind. I am always mortified to discover I have hurt someone. And will apologise unreservedly immediately (especially if I love them). So I am ok with that part. The bluntness is the thing that most scuppered me … my friend Carla remembers overhearing a business phone call – in which I asked someone: “What part of the word ‘No’ don’t you understand”. She was horrified – and quotes me to this day. Not my finest moment. The person on the other end of the line had been badgering me for days and his conversation had devolved into threats. I had had enough.

I won – but I made an enemy. One that unseated me, many years later.

keep-calm-and-shut-up-838And therein lies the rub. That’s why the advice to my younger self. My frankness, need to be right, to prove myself, to have a say, to get involved … all caused people not to like me. To hold grudges. To think I was unpleasant. Sure my opinions were usually backed with experience and thought – and would often play out the way I predicted. But that didn’t matter – I infuriated, bruised egos and stepped on toes along the way, too.

And that tripped me up.

Nowadays I don’t say as much. Mainly because I have learned to pick my battles. To hold my tongue. I like a simple life and this is the price of admission. But there’s another reason: I keep quiet because, frankly, I don’t give a damn. About being honest with people who don’t matter. About what other people are getting up to. About whether something is good or not. About sharing what I know with someone who won’t appreciate it. Most of the time I just can’t be assed – so I simply nod and smile.

But I haven’t forgotten how to shoot from the hip. And, when I need to, I will. Because, there are times when something has to be said. And I am ok with any hit I may take for saying it.

(All images found in the public domain.)

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15 Comments

  1. Ditto Camparigirl – I rely on that straight talking lovingly given honesty to cut through my ramblings. It has been a breath of fresh air and, sofagirl, I love you for it. x

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
  2. When I was at school, a teacher stated something that I knew was incorrect. Smartalec that I was, I smugly spoke up and said so. How rude and naive of me. I quickly learnt the truth of the old rhyme, as my marks went down-hill from then on…

    ‘If smarter than your teacher, tact,
    Demands that you conceal the fact.’

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
    • When I questioned the nuns, they used to make me stand, arms wide open in a cross, a small bible in each hand. If my arms sagged, I would get a whack with a ruler on my underarm. I was 8. Peace love and understanding sisters.

      August 6, 2013
      |Reply
  3. The one good thing about working for or with horrible people is that when you get to a good working environment, you really really appreciate it. And, if you have any way of influencing your working environment to improve the relations therein, you can grab it with both hands. Preferably not groping though!

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
    • Never groped in my life. eeeuuuuwwww. Thanks Red Hen!

      August 6, 2013
      |Reply
  4. silvia
    silvia

    I’m ok and love straightforwardness.
    People who say what they think with no second thought suit my likings and I tend to be like that.
    What’s the point in being unclear?
    If words are the house we live in I want mine to be clear, honest and transparent.
    As anything that’s simple it might be very difficult.
    Great post sofagirl

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
    • Grazie Silvia! Your house is a good house.

      August 5, 2013
      |Reply
  5. I wouldn’t have you any other way. Who would tell me when I am talking crap or completely off base?

    August 5, 2013
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    • Sofagirl
      Sofagirl

      Grazie Wah!

      August 5, 2013
      |Reply
  6. We women of a certain age (and I am older than you are) were forever bombarded with sexual harassment in the workplace and the dilemma of what to do about it. Speaking up was definitely not encouraged and it’s not much better today, despite what the laws say.
    Good for you for speaking up. Let your moral compass guide you and don’t look back.

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
    • Sofagirl
      Sofagirl

      You’re so right. We did put up with a lot of nonsense. I did tell the HR woman as I left the company. Asking her to keep an eye on him … I wasn’t the only one he harassed. She said to me that sour grapes leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. For the most part girls have nowhere to turn. I worked with a woman in NY who verbally harassed people. Screaming at them, right in their faces. One woman arrived in my office in tears …. A fine spray of her tormentor’s salad lunch filmed across her glasses, I went with her to HR .. they said: we all have bad days. Yes to the moral compass. I hold it dear.

      August 5, 2013
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      • I think I worked for your screamer and the harasser, plus a few gropers along the way. We had no recourse except to leave. They are the inspiration for my blog, though, so there’s some satisfaction.

        August 5, 2013
        |Reply
  7. Carla P
    Carla P

    Sofagirl….you’ve mentioned all the times things have gone awry from your ability to be outspoken and forthright……so let me remind you of the good stuff, of all the battles you won, usually on behalf of others rather than yourself.
    i know you don’t like to bleat so I will on your behalf!!

    August 5, 2013
    |Reply
    • Sofagirl
      Sofagirl

      Thanks Miss Carla! You made my day.

      August 5, 2013
      |Reply

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