Say what you mean and mean what you say

I went home early on Wednesday. I only was at work for 8 hours, and I decided that my feelings were hurt.

I’d asked for help and the answer was:
“You should manage your time better.”


manage my time better! Well, I would manage my time better by going home after eight hours, that is what I decided. So I went home and was reading a book in bed.

The phone rang. I let it ring. I enjoyed my shrugging of responsibility at work earlier, and I thought I would ride the train a little further.

But Chris didn’t know that, and he answered the phone.

“It’s for you.”

I gave him a withering look and said, “Hello?”

“Hi, this is Jane, your neighbor down the hall. Umm..Are you planning on attending the board meeting this evening?”

“I don’t know. Was something happening?”

“Well, they are discussing the CC&Rs for the complex, and this is the time we are supposed to bring up any questions we have. We are supposed to vote on them next month.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

“Yes, they didn’t make it very clear. I am bringing an attorney friend of mine, because I’m very concerned about some of the changes.”

Now, I only knew Jane from the last time she called about this same thing. I had no intention whatsoever of going to this meeting. I was busy nursing hurt feelings, remember?

But I had to be polite.

And I had to get off the phone.

She was still going: “…because they have made changes that affect our lives. They have given themselves a lot of power. And the last time I tried to talk about it, they just cut me off. I don’t think that’s right.”

“Wow. Well, I’ll have to read over the notes again and take a look.”

“Yes, because we need to have the ability to speak up.”

“Thank you for calling. I will take a look.”

It took about four more exchanges before I could hang up.

And while I was trying to find a way to hang up, I knew I had to say things that would give her the impression that I might come to this meeting.

Which I wasn’t going to do.

This sort of verbal smoke and mirrors is a part of my life now. Maybe it comes with working in elevator buildings. But I often have to give answers that are noncommital and reassuring.

Maybe this should bother me. Sincerity is a commodity, to be used sparingly. Is that how I ever envisioned my life?

How much is integrity tied to sincerity? Integrity is one of my cherished values. I will be the one to keep my word, I will be the one not to drop the ball.

But a big part of that is not picking up the ball in the first place.

I have this theory about communication. You cannot simply state the facts that need to be used. You have to have communications overhead. You have to say:

Hi, How are you?

That’s great. Hey, I wondered if you could go to your files and
check for this one thing.

Yeah, I was looking for the numbers from the New York buildout.

You have them? Oh, good. COuld you give them to me?

Yeah, just forward them on.


All of that could have been done with ONE sentence, 30 seconds. But humans don’t work like that. In fact, that was a rather succinct interchange, comparatively.

But the message had to be wrapped in soft exchanges, to be recieved properly. The content had overhead. Yes, we could say, “Forward me the numbers from the New York buildout” and leave. But the likelihood of even getting a response would be lowered, because the person could say, “How rude! If she really wants that information, she can come back and ask nicely.”

We have to feel cared for, we have to know that there is kindness and goodwill involved in the exchange of information.

That’s why, there is a kind of relationship that has to be built between people who interact.

But then, maybe you can take it too far.

This guy at work, who is really a mover and shaker, has an intensely good-natured attitude. He very seldom complains, and when something is upsetting, he just laughs.

And this makes him very approachable, etc.

But then, he also makes sure to tell people what they want to hear. Once, when we were working on a project, we got a price for a particular piece of it. I said, “hey, that’s not as expensive as I thought it would be.” He nodded and said, “yeah.”

We went over to the guy who could approve the purchase, and that guy said, “Wow! That’s expensive.”

My guy pulled a face and said, “I know.”

Which is it? I noticed he does this a lot. He appears to empathize with whoever he is speaking to.

Which makes me wonder if anything he says is true. And I feel a little bad wondering that because he’s a very nice guy, works very hard, etc.

But at the same time, how can you sincerely agree with two opposite opinions?

Where is the line in sincerity and integrity? Do we sincerely have to care what our fellow humans beings did over the weekend? Why do we ask?

There are so many times when I have to paste on a smile so that I can get my job done. But getting the job done is part of my self-respect, my sense of integrity.

So when I say what I don’t mean, like “that’s alright, it’s no big deal, I’ll take care of that” that lets me mean what I say when I say (to myself at the very least) “I am really damn good at what I do.”

Funny, that sincerity should have to be sacrificed like that.