When responsibilities collide

I’ve been wondering why I was so taken aback yesterday when somebody asked that I remove certain commonly used words from my vocabulary while in his presence. I was worried that I might be overreacting. Why would I care so much about this?

I think I have it figured out now. The problem is that I am not always, or even usually, in the presence of this person in one-on-one situations.

More often we are in a group situation, where I am acting in my capacity as a professor, leading a group of students in research projects. If you’ve ever led a team project, you know it’s not always easy to keep group energy flowing, while simultaneously maintaining a relaxed and supportive atmosphere.

I realize that agreeing to edit myself as requested would require self-consciously picking over my words, in a way that would have nothing to do with the needs of the group. If part of my mind must continually stay focused on something outside of those needs (for example, to use Sally’s analogy, on never saying the word “keyhole”), then I might not be able to do my job properly.

And that’s something I care about very much.

3 Responses to “When responsibilities collide”

  1. sharon says:

    It is interesting that the reason you describe today for your hesitation to comply with the request appears to have little to do with the reason you described yesterday. I’m guessing that your initial reaction when he made the request was emotional, and then the mind rushed in to try to explain (and perhaps justify?) the emotion. I catch myself doing that all the time.

  2. admin says:

    Yes, that happens to me quite a bit. I know something is wrong, but I haven’t figured out yet what it is. The emotions are there, but not the logic explaining those emotions. So I start “explaining” it to myself any way I can.

    I’ve learned in such situations, to do and say very little in the moment. Responding emotionally without knowing why you are doing so is a recipe for disaster.

    Ah humans! We are so complicated. Good thing too. Otherwise there would be no interesting novels or movies. :-)

  3. sharon says:

    Indeed! And that’s an important skill (and one I’m still working on) to catch yourself and not react in the moment. Too often I only catch it later, on reflection.
    So what do you do when you discover that a strong emotion doesn’t follow any logic that you can support intellectually? Does the emotion go away when you realize that it doesn’t agree with your intellect, or do you ignore the emotion in that case? Or do you somehow just live with the contradiction? I struggle with this too.

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