Let’s start with the facts:
On Friday, Mike and I were having one of our “normal” arguments. They usually come about while we’re discussing what business rule to implement or where an application design should go. That kind of thing. So, we’re arguing. And, not surprising to anyone who knows us, our voices gradually became louder and louder. (I secretly think people enjoy hearing us argue like that, but I don’t know that they’d ever say that.) Anyway, as we’re arguing, Mike said something snarky (as he tends to do) and I replied with “Ok, fuck you.” Now, both Mike and I knew instantly that it was not said with any cruelty or directed anger. It was snark refuted with snark. But, to the outside observer, this could have been perceived as an escalation to something…let’s go with…not good. So, Mike and I finished the argument minutes later and moved on to other things. Later that afternoon, though, we were talking to Mark (our direct boss) and he actually commented on this statement and was worried he’d have to intervene.
Mark, to his credit, lets us “work these things out” on our own and still did so here. But the fact that he commented on it made me wary. This bothered me the rest of the afternoon. It bothered me so much that I felt the need to write him an email that night expressing my apology. As I said in the email, it came down to a lack of professionalism. Which is embarrassing, to be honest. Even though I don’t achieve it all the time, I still strive for a modicum of professionalism. Argh.
On Tuesday, I got a phone call from Aaron (my indirect boss). Normal work talk, nothing extrordinary. Until he happened to mention that he had noticed I had become snappy lately. And that I had lost some of my patience. Now, I don’t mind that he said it. He should say it. In fact, I’m grateful that we have that kind of relationship (both personally and professionally) that he would mention that now and not wait for some kind of review thing or something and “dock” me for it. What unnerved me…what caught me off guard…was the fact that I didn’t recognize this fact beforehand. How did I miss this? Double Argh.
What kills me is that these two incidents happened within 3 work days of each other. So, not only am I a ranting, cursing lunatic, but I’m also impatient and snappy. I know that’s not what they were actually saying. In fact, I’m sure they did not mean those extremes at all. But in my mind, when I hear those two things in close proximity (as was the case here), I start to look back. I start to analyze the past couple of months and try to figure out situations that could have led to this perception. I also start to become hyper-self-aware. I start to revert to my previous inclinations. Not saying anything out of turn. Not asserting myself. Closing in to my own safe, little shell.
And you know what, I don’t want to do that anymore. I do have opinions and observations, and while some of them may be right and some may be wrong, they are mine nonetheless. And they have a right to be heard. (I’m saying this to myself mostly, by the way.) I also think there is a takeaway here. Get control of your temperament.
My temper has always been an issue. My grandfather had it. My dad has it. I have it. A very short temper. And when that temper is tested, I get irrational and out of control. Not one of my better traits. It’s also one of the few things Jayme and I argue about, specifically when it comes to the kids.
On the opposite end, my temperament has never been a problem with me. To the normal Joe, I am a mild-mannered, semi-quiet guy. That perception has helped me gain the reputation I now have. I think this is also why it was noteworthy to Mark and Aaron when I stray from that.
So, my goal: Get back to that temperament, yet still strive to assert myself more. I want to be heard. And I think I should. There should be no competition between these two things. I just have to work at both. And I will.