A few weeks ago, a fellow television host was complaining to me about her co-host. She was upset about how he oversteps his area and doesn’t let her speak on air anymore. From my previous conversations with her, I knew that she had never really spoken to him or commented on his lack of respect for her.
I asked why she didn’t speak to him politely the first day it happened. Her response was one given by so many other people in such situations: ‘I didn’t want to rock the boat.’ Seriously, what was she thinking? This guy was busy destroying her career while she was trying to be ‘polite’. The poor girl was bumped off her show last week because according to her producer and upper management, she had ‘zero input’.
Now more than ever, work is all about survival of the fittest. And people who sit on the fence or back off when things of importance are at stake tend not to survive. The downward spiral begins the very first time one ignores a situation or lets things slide. Give an inch and people will take a mile. What you allow to happen once in life is what will happen for the rest of your life.
Human beings, by their very nature, push boundaries and so even learned behaviours get worse with time. By the time we decide to put our foot down or show displeasure, it's already a habit.
This happens in all relationships — in marriages, with kids and at work. Even socially, ignoring a snippy comment only means that more people will take that liberty.
These days one sees kids being extremely impolite and disrespectful to their parents. Apparently, modern parenting teaches one to just say and do nothing. As a result, there are more and more children growing up with a serious attitude problem. Please note, this is just my observation, not a description of every single household.
Parents are either too busy or are unclear about how to teach kids basic etiquette. The first time a kid is rude or disrespectful to someone, whether it is the domestic staff or the neighbour’s kid, it needs to be discouraged and nipped in the bud. Instead, what parents do is to respond only when the kid finally goes out of control and starts to disrespect the parents. By then it is too late.
It is the foundation you lay down on day one that sets the precedent. I see this in marriages all the time. The husband comes home late one day. The wife doesn’t comment or even notice. Husband decides to start coming home late two days a week. Eventually, the man doesn’t turn up until 10pm every day. Suddenly one starts hearing complaints about how the wife is neglected and ignored and how her husband is never home. The point here is not to suffocate the other person, but to show your displeasure in an impactful but polite way from day one.
Take one final example. Have you noticed how certain people make snippy comments, but only with certain individuals? A month ago, this lady met me at a gathering and commented on how I was so thin now that it didn’t look nice. This was the same person who had earlier told me I looked chubby on screen. This time, however, my response was blunt. “Thank you for your opinion, but my weight is my issue not yours.”
Nobody needs toxic people and toxic opinions in their lives. We all know people who make nasty comments about us and there is really no reason to put up with them. You don’t need to pick a fight. Instead, you can get people to back off in a civilised manner.
If one sets clear boundaries on day one, it saves you from a bigger blow-up or a negative fallout later. But first you need to know what boundaries to set and also that those boundaries actually need to be set.
In a perfect world, people would be kinder. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, we just need to grow a backbone instead. Life is no fun being a doormat!
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.
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