I’ve seen a lot of younger, more “woke” (in the good sense, not the pejorative sense) folks reminding us older folks to not treat others as you’d like to be treated, but to treat them how THEY would prefer.
That made me wonder how I’m supposed to know that? How do you know how someone wants you to treat them? If you know them, you can base it on experience. Otherwise…Do you guess?
Perhaps you might have to ask someone how they want to be treated. That might lead to a conversation. Insight may occur. Or not. But doing unto others like they prefer may end up being a bidirectional thing this way, if approached with kindness and respect.
One of my activist friends, Jonathan K. Horstman, had a social action campaign a few years ago, focused on not just sitting around and watching our communities deteriorate. It was called [PUSHBACK] and I liked the idea and what his team was doing. While he’s off doing other great things in the community (as well as acting, doing music, and raising two precious children), I’ve been thinking about my own tendency to retreat when faced with pressure, setbacks, and lack of respect. What’s that gotten me so far? A big ole bag of seething resentment. That’s not helpful at all. I no longer want to retreat in a corner, because as Jonathan said:
So, yesterday, I took a bit of a blow, and decided that rather than sit around and stew about it, I’d put my energy into creating something good, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That is not a new analogy. I did this once before when my team at La Leche League was deemed to be not embracing the new ways of working well enough. We just worked our asses off until we were told we were redundant. While I was sad, I was also proud of how hard we fought, how well we organized, and how respectfully we treated each other.
THAT is how I plan to treat my coworkers as we regroup and move forward. We will come up with a plan, do good work, and feel proud of ourselves, whether it’s acknowledged or not. I went from wanting to run and hide yesterday, to wanting to proudly push back and say we’re here, we are good at what we do, and we’re going to contribute!
There’s always more than one way to get things done, and it really helps to bear that in mind when you’re surprised by changes, re-prioritization, and such. It’s normal for that to happen, especially in the workplace, so you may as well, jump in, see where you can be of use, and find your fulfilment in doing work you’re proud of. That’s my goal! No more seething resentment when I don’t like how I’ve been treated. I’ll take it as an opportunity to find ways to win respect, at least within myself, because after all, other people’s opinions don’t define you, now do they?
I hope my latest lecture to myself has been helpful. I enjoyed how Barbara said in a recent comment that she often needs to hear these things, too. Just like I need to periodically re-read Brene Brown, I need to periodically repeat things I thought I’d learned a long time ago. And that’s just fine!
What do you have to tell yourself frequently? I’d love some more pithy aphorisms!
Time for another good ole rant. It’s about names. Names seem to have a magical quality to them. People become very attached to their given names, or they change them to show they have created a patriarchal family unit for tax and procreational purposes (just kidding, marriage). Other people go right out and choose all-new names when the one they started out with doesn’t seem to fit (I chose Suna at some point as a young woman, for long-obscure but spiritual reasons).
Throughout the history of the people I mostly descend from (ye olde English, Scots, Irish people) many names have shortened or informal versions, which we are all aware of: Bob for Robert, Bill for William, Meg for Margaret, Kate/Kathy for Katherine, etc. This is just dandy for anyone who likes to use these time-honored naming conventions.
Now, naming conventions do change, even among us English-American types. There are many people whose parents name them the shortened version of a name. I know folks named “Bill” who aren’t Williams, for example. Other people do NOT like the shortened versions, like my late friend Robert, who only let immediate family and close friends call him “Bobby.”
What to Do?
Well, my general guiding principle is to call people by the name by which they are introduced to me. I’m gonna call Pamela that, not Pam (which will make IRL friend Pamela-not-Pam very happy). If someone introduces themselves as Robert, I’m not gonna gush, “Hi Rob, nice to meet you!” I met a Burton a while back, and there was no way I was gonna Burt him until I found out it was okay with him.
This shouldn’t be controversial. People deserve the respect to be called the name they prefer to go by. This has been true for years and years, and is not some new-fangled concept like asking people their pronouns. (I’m she/her.)
What’s Bothering You, Susie?*
Well, what’s common sense to me, and what’s worked most of my life has recently stopped working well. Normally, I introduce myself as “Sue Ann” and depending on the context, I’d say, I also go by Suna. Lately, more and more, the response to that it, “Great! Nice to meet you, Sue!”
DID I SAY MY NAME WAS SUE?
No. I did not.
I do not identify as a “Sue.” When someone calls for Sue in a crowd, I never think it might be me. Or Susan. Or Susie. I am just a non-Sue. I think I’m a little different, and so is my name, I guess.
Nonetheless, every single new coworker that’s shown up in the last couple of months has begun calling me Sue. Master Naturalist Students? 50% Sue. Folks around Cameron? Yep.
And woe is me, even when I fill out my whole name in online forms, it’s Sue Sue Sue Sue. All these texts trying to be all chummy with me from a certain annoying presidential candidate, as well as the car wash people who screwed up so badly that they should literally be groveling…greet me with a chipper, “Hi Sue!”
By the way, for people I meet in person, I do say, when I can get a word in, “I go by Sue Ann.” I sign every blasted email I send with Sue Ann. If someone did that to me when I called them the wrong thing, I’d notice that signature and fix it.
I know others who have it worse, like my husband Lee whose real first name is Ernest (of Earnest as the local newspaper calls him). But he knows to expect that, as did my whole family of origin, who went by their middle name, except for me, the two-word outlier. Once they explained it, people called them the right thing.
It used to be that I knew a phone call or email was from someone who didn’t know me if they addressed me as Sue. But now people who do know me keep doing it. And I hate to say it, but it makes me like a person less when they do that, even when they are otherwise fine.
I’m attached to my name. I like it. It’s been me over 60 years (other than two years in my first marriage). When I get postal mail addressed to my spouse and me, I get an irrational response when I see something like “Suna and Lee Bruns, Jr.” as I got just last week. Who are those people?
I guess everyone has their hot buttons, and now you know one of mine. I’m not like the great poet, the unwashed phenomenon, who once said,
You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray You may call me anything but no matter what you say Still, you’re gonna have to serve somebody…
Gotta Serve Somebody, by Bob Dylan
Call me Sue Ann or Suna. I’ll call you whatever you would like to be called. I think that’s respectful. Names matter. We all deserve the respect to be called the name we want to be called.
You got any stories?
*There are about three people who can call me Susie. Dad could, but he’s not available to talk anymore.