Written to Ed, but worth repeating

To understand this, you need to understand that, in general, I will tend to avoid confrontation or conflict. I’ve written three paragraphs about that, but that sentence says it all, so I’ll leave it at that.

*** *** ***

The latest in a long line of changes seems to be upon me.
Displayed in three attractive poses, linguistically snapshot
and mounted for your enjoyment, thus:

1. Mark Architect. A member of the Employer’s family, senior
architect, generally useless. He strode into my office (the
office, one must admit, of the merest lackey of the Employer’s
empire) and slapped his hand down on my desk.

“I had some files on the network, and they’re gone. I want
them back.” Slap, again. “Now.”

I calmly pushed myself back from the computer, turned my chair,
and relaxed my hands into my lap. “First off, let’s be clear.
I don’t march into your office and demand things in a rude
fashion. I don’t appreciate you doing that in my office.
Please don’t.” I waited in relaxed silence until he started to
shift uncomfortably. “Now, the good news is, I can save your
files.” And, smiling in a friendly way, did so.

2. Jim Estimator. My boss, an aging man in his late 60’s,
keeps everything he works on in utter chaos so that he is the
only one who understands what is going on. I sympathized, but
can’t approve; I have to clean up after him. But, he’s the
boss, and his way is the way things are done.

Until this week. I came in with a bid from a subcontractor,
wanting to know if the wording was sufficient to our needs. He
snatched it from my hands. “I’ll handle this,” he cried, and
began filling out a fax form with vitriol, implying in his
wording of the fax that the subtrade had been accusing us of
malfeasance. I decided that I had no control – nor should have
any – over his talking with the subtrades, so left.

When his fax receipt printed, I made a copy and brought it to
him. “Your copy. In the future, would you please not start
fights in the middle of my work?”

“I didn’t.”

“You surely did. You used charged language here, here, and
here,” I said, indicating the wording in question, “to imply
that he had started a name-calling match…which he hadn’t.
I’m trying to create a professional relationship with this
subtrade, and you are giving them reason to believe that, in
dealing with me, they have to fight with you.”

“Well, they’ve been doing things like this for three years –”

“But not in this bid.”

“It’s been going on –”

“But not in this bid. And not with me. They have been
appropriate with me.” Silence. I continued, “I don’t mind you
continuing your squabble with the subtrade. Just, please,
don’t do it where I am trying to work for you. You are making
it hard to succeed at what you ask of me.”

More silence. Then, “All right.”

3. Michael. I have always been (too) gentle with the kids,
understanding their perspective and reluctant to force my will
on them, as my will is based on motives they have not. Michael
is fraught over the enormity of his situation; not graduating,
about to be cast into adulthood, required to make decisions for

I took five minutes of his time, by the clock. I asked his
plans, in thirty seconds or less. Nodding, I said, “fine. But
understand, what you are proposing is about $1,000 a semester.
I will help up to half of the first semester. After that, no
promises. Further, I am deeply unwilling to help you all the
way through school. I need my money for things I want to do.

“Furthermore, you should understand that, currently, child
support does not quite cover your groceries and your car
insurance. If you stop going to school, child support stops,
and suddenly so does the help with food & car.

“Which means that, if you are not going to school, you must be
bringing home at least that much money to pay for what it
covered…and be working toward your own place. I have no
interest in housing you for very long.

“I’m not kicking you out, but you need to figure out what you
want and how you’ll get there pretty quickly, because in about
three weeks I will be looking at your actions and making some


All three of these happened in this last week. None of them
were accompanied by huge anger or stress. None of them brought
any stress on their heels.

I appear to have begun to be assertive, and to not feel guilty
or traumatized by being so.


Crossposted from Epinepherine & Sophistry