The past few weeks have been challenging; the difficulties have had to do with dealing with people. I haven’t wronged anyone, but I have been unable to keep quiet after someone has wronged me, my family, or a professional group I am affiliated with. Predictably, conflict ensued.
In this society, and especially if you are female, everyone expects you to just swallow whatever crap they dish out in the name of peace. If you don’t and confront them instead over their their stupid, insensitive, or downright manipulative behavior, people are generally shocked that there is a reaction in the first place; they are used to getting away with social transgressions big and small by relying on other people’s conflict aversion.
The thing is, when someone is an a$$ towards me, whether they meant it or not, whether they had a bad day/month/toothache or another legitimate reason, they make me do work that I don’t want to do. In order to keep the peace and avoid conflict, I have to find a way to absorb the $hit. It saps my energy; it detracts from my work; it requires me to do the emotional labor of processing their a$$holishness.
No. If you crap on me or upset me, I will make sure that you don’t have a great day either. Next time, hopefully you will tread lightly. Yes, I know you will think I am a crazy bitch/difficult/hormonal. But I actually think we will get along much better once I have shown you some teeth.
Why is keeping the peace so paramount? Because nothing good comes from conflict, or at least so say several of my (Midwestern-born, church-going) politically savvy colleagues. I beg to disagree. Me knowing that I am not a mute trash receptacle into which people get to dump their steaming piles of $hit is a good thing that comes from conflict. Why should I be concerned about the well-being and comfort of the people who so clearly hold my own well-being and comfort in very low regard?
I had a few interactions with a very intense (female) colleague. They did rub me the wrong way and I have tried to figure out why. I like the colleague socially, so these negative feelings in the professional context were something new.
The problem is the following. She and another colleague have been thinking and working on something for a while (years) and are well versed in and very passionate about the topic. They want a very specific thing implemented as part of university policy and have even drafted some verbiage to that effect. They discussed the procedure with the higher-ups, who referred them to my committee. The problem is that the colleague came to me with this essentially finished product, whose value and necessity she felt should be self-evident to me, and basically pushed that it be discussed and adopted. My reaction (without the expletives) was, “WTF is going on? Where is this coming from, what the hell is all this, why is any of this necessary or urgent, and why exactly do you expect me to push it through my committee so quickly?” She seemed to be taken aback that I didn’t immediately see the greatness of the proposal; she seemed almost offended. The moral of the story is that, just because something is near or dear to your heart, you cannot expect other people to understand or care about it, let alone drop everything to follow your agenda. And, to be honest, having done a bit too much of your homework (and waving it in the face of the uninitiated) makes you seem pushy.
The epilogue is that I slowed the ball a little and had us talk several times over several weeks, so I’d have the time to figure out for myself it this is something my committee should be dealing with and how much jurisdiction we had, looked into some precedents and past practices, and I was eventually confident to distribute needed information for consideration by my committee. This also prompted us on the committee to look into the bigger picture and we will be making certain other changes to the policy alongside the ones the colleague proposed. The vote will happen, but not until the end of the semester. At schools with faculty governance, things do move, but probably not as fast as some people would like.