Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing is truly a good thing. If it’s good for the world, for myself, for others.
A couple of days ago, I had a fight with one of my colleagues. We’re both helping run the Berkeley Math Tournament (if you’re a high schooler in the Bay Area, you should register), and we were working on a schedule for tournament day. I didn’t like her idea — I felt it was a huge waste of time, so I told her it was stupid.
She didn’t take my criticism well and so we started fighting. I don’t like backing down in fights, and as it escalated, harsher words were said.
She stormed out of the room and didn’t come back. I felt bad. I hadn’t fought with anyone in a long time.
I email the girl a couple times, apologizing and asking her to call me so we can resolve the issue. But she doesn’t. Her friend emails me telling me to stop asking her to call, because she won’t. He says she doesn’t want anything to do with scheduling anymore. She must be really hurt. It makes me feel even worse.
I feel like she’s in the wrong for not wanting to put the conflict behind us. Professionals tells us we should do just that. But I’m also in the wrong for starting the fight.
I’m really blunt and straightforward with people so sometimes I come off as an asshole when I don’t mean to. Sometimes I just need to be more tactful. And I need to learn when to back out of fights. It’s not always productive — we didn’t get anything done after I fought with the girl.
The fight makes me question myself. Am I a good person? Am I making a positive impact? Not in that meeting.
But everyone has bad days. No one is perfect all the time. And you shouldn’t strive to be perfect. What you should strive for is limiting the bad days. You should strive to be the best that you can be. Be nice to as many people as you can; go out of your way to help as many people as you can. Help yourself. Learn from your experiences. Actively try to be a little better than you were the day before. Try to have a positive impact in whatever you do.
We can’t change the past, we can only change what we will do in the future. I’m meeting that girl again today. I don’t know how she’ll react to seeing me. I’m going to apologize to her again, and hope that the conflict gets past us. We’re both on the same side — we’re trying to run a great tournament. If she doesn’t want to move on, that’ll be on her. I would have tried my best to get over the conflict, and that’s really all I can do.
If you’re the best that you can be, then you don’t need anyone to tell you that what you’re doing is a good thing. You know it’s a good thing. You know you’re a good person. Even so, sometimes all we need is just a little validation to help motivate us to do more truly good things. For the world, for yourself, for others.
9 responses to “Be the best you”
There is a certain saying that goes “People see things through colored lenses.” While this saying generally does not make any sense, it somehow means that what you see as a giant pile of $4(t, seems like a flower bed of roses and cute little bunny rabbits to her. Now, maybe you’re right, her idea might be as stupid as stupid comes. Or maybe she’s right, and you don’t get the sheer genius of it. Or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle, like honey bunches of oats among bran flakes and cocoa puffs. I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. However, when you try to assert what you see to what she sees and believes, you have to be careful. You can’t just say her grandiose ideas are actually the most moronic ideas you have ever encountered. That’s like going to an person whose giving out free home-baked cookies at a baked sale, taking a bite of said cookie, immediately spitting it out at her face, and back-handing her while saying how she can make her cookies better. See? It won’t work. Granted, you just might be trying to show the obvious, but to her, all you did was set her flowers on fire and stepped on her feelings. Now when she’s arguing with you, it’s not “I will gladly listen to your comments and take criticism and ideas from them yadayada.” It’s more like how dare you step on my work, you ungrateful rude dumb….” see where im going? People don’t like to see the flaws, for it is what they made, and a certain amount of pride and joy comes to what you make. If someone told me my drawings sucked after just glancing it once, I would be raging inside. You have to slowly make her see what you see, and say what is wrong and not wrong about her idea. Show her the mistakes and faults of her idea clearly, but not blatantly. Go over each point slowly and clearly, and work it out together. Now if that situation was the internet, and you didn’t know her, be as blunt as you want. But in this situation, I wouldn’t want my flowers set on fire either. You are a good person btw.
Well said! However, I disagree with you on the internet situation. Just remember the person on the other side of the internet is also a human being. S/he is not a machine. Remember those internet-abused young men and women who took their lives? Whenever you deal with a human being, whether on the internet or face to face or on the phone, always consider the recipient’s feelings before you say any hurtful words. Be tactful, be considerate and be respectful – it won’t do you wrong.
It’s amazing what great and recurring opportunities we all get to be assholes. This is part of the reason we should go easy on each other when an opportunity is taken. I’m for promoting reasoned good will, which means I’m a sucker for a well-articulated and heartfelt apology. And I think professionalism should win out. Sometimes, though, patience–almost always a virtue–demands we take the time to allow for others to get over being hurt by our asshole moments. Of course we should try to keep evolving in our humanity. I wish that really were a given. At least, it seems to me, that we ought to make it a habit to do about a dozen kindnesses a day, including the small duties that present themselves. Trying to be hugely wonderful practically overnight is a great way to fail and give up on the project. Sort of like sabotaging ourselves with New Year’s resolutions.
Here me, Patrick: you’re my kind of
asshole–belatedly tender and sweet and most belatedly humble. And you’ve got it
right about being a good sport regarding tough words when a job is on the line. Fight with me anytime.
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Feelings are delicate things. They are easy to be hurt but hard to be healed once hurt. Even if they are healed, the scar will always be there. As the woman I called Mom (bless her soul) used to say, “One sentence makes one jump up and another makes one smile. You’d rather make the other person smile than mad.” What she meant was constructive criticism. That woman had a lot of wisdom, considering that she never received any formal education.
I am glad you have recognized your mistakes, offered your apologies and mended your relationship with the girl. This is a huge step for you. Hopefully, in the future, you will bite your tongue first. Listen to the person till s/he finishes and ask their reasoning behind it. You may not oppose as much to their ideas when you hear them out. Even if you don’t agree, you can still be respectful. Everyone deserves respect no matter how despicable you think that person is let alone your fellow colleague.
I am sure all the teenagers out there can take a lesson from your blog.
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