Do you know how some people are always ready to take the opportunity to take a dig at someone? Those little seemingly innocuous comments made in an attempt to lighten the mood or loosen up? In reality it neither lightens nor loosens anyone’s mood unless you are someone who enjoys a good laugh at someone else’s expense (and that’s a different conversation). I should know since I used to be a queen at passive aggressive comments and offhanded sarcasm directed at others.
Yesterday I spent the day at one of those big corporate shin digs where all the top brass does a big “rah-rah” dance complete with smoke and mirrors. While I know many of these folks mean well, sometimes their approach leaves a lot to be desired. In an attempt to keep the event light and personal, several top executives spent their introductions taking digs at one another. I suppose acting like you don’t care about how comments may come across to people in the audience or even deeply within the person you are lightheartedly digging is supposed to somehow make everyone feel like a big happy family. Now I’m all for being authentic and real. In fact it is a cornerstone of how I live my life and the approach I take to my work as a coach. Somehow my gut tells me that my discomfort at listening to this couldn’t possibly have been limited just to me.
That led me to the question of – why do we have to be so mean (even subtly) to each other? Is the only way to forge a connection in the corporate environment to poke fun at other people? Wouldn’t it be more powerful and unifying to share a moving, personal story rather than take cheap shots at one another?
I don’t know why this hit me so clearly yesterday. Maybe it has been my recent focus on what it means to be a more compassionate human being while still maintaining strength, courage, and drive. I’m not sure, but as clear as day I realized that it is far more socially acceptable to be mean (take cheap shots at others, make fun of them, get a laugh at others’ expense, etc.) than to be real. Perhaps it is just too scary for people to be real because then they would have to be vulnerable. And, being vulnerable is scary even if the rewards (in terms of living fully) are great.
Words have power. They can unite and bring love and connection or they can divide and wound like the most technologically savvy weapons. After all, in many ways it is semantics that divide all the great religions, nations, and people of the world.
So, next time you’re looking to take some cheap shots in supposed “good natured fun” stop for a moment and consider:
- How might this be received by the other person?
- How might this be received by others listening?
- What is my intent for making this comment?
- Am I making a joke at someone else’s expense because it makes me feel less vulnerable, awkward, anxious, etc?
I’m not suggesting you become guarded with your words or give up making light of the hilarity of life. I’m all for humor and have found it in some of the most unlikely and stressful moments. Believe me, everyone I meet always comments about how I make them laugh. I just want to invite you to consider how you choose and use words because what you choose speaks volumes about who you really are.