How PC are we expected to be?


“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemn­a­tion does not liberate, it oppresses.” —Carl Gustov Jung

 

Let’s start in the middle where the fence riders rule. In the world of political correctness, or in a more specific “social acceptance” focus, fence riders can get by just fine. They’re not too offensive, not too defensive. They may not be as entertaining as the offensive or as safe as the defensive, but their awareness and ability to jump onto either side probably serves them well.

As Spongebob once told his best friend, “Patrick, your genius is showing.”

Who you are is who you are, whether others like it or not. And it will probably seep out at some point.

We all take turns becoming who we need to be in the moment. Everybody does it. The store clerk who was supposed to have a break 10 minutes ago won’t belittle the little old lady who takes another 10 to pay for her purchase in nickels, which she counts out loud, coin by coin.

A customer service rep won’t tell off the chronic whiner who calls in every week to complain about problems they continually hallucinate.

No, these professional suck-ups—PC note: that’s a joke—will smile, nod, say thank you and smile again. Then, when the door closes or the phone is silenced, they will unleash on their coworkers. This is expected. It’s OK.

It’s tough to respond when reacting would be a lot more satisfying. This is a learned art, and if someone has perfected it, it’s probably been the “hard way.” They’ve either been accused, tested, pushed or burned before. But as they (should) say, control is a virtue.

We do owe something to each other. We can abide by the live-and-let-live rule, but if I have the right to be considered, then so do you. We’ve had this conversation many times in my office and we all seem to agree—it’s not necessarily about what you believe or what you choose to do in your free time (with a caveat of not hurting anyone.) It’s about how you treat other people.

A friend of mine has a favorite bumper sticker saying, “Mean people suck.” I like that, but tweaked: “Judgmental people suck.”

One of my favorite columnists, Paige Wiser of the Chicago Sun-Tribune, wrote about a Boston Globe etiquette advice column titled “Miss Conduct.” A few years back, when The Globe was searching for a new Miss Conduct, they hired a multifaceted psychologist/communications manager/stand-up comedian, which proved to be a good choice in today’s professional world. Etiquette concerns have ventured into previously uncharted areas.

One question presented to Miss Conduct went something like this: “My boss sniffs my food. She picks it up and smells it. Then she comments on the color, smell and texture of it. How do I get her to stop without ruining my work relationship?”

Miss Conduct’s answer was the only one she could have possibly given with a straight face. “She does what?” she started. “Surely you don’t expect me to solve this.”

Seriously, who would want to sit through a business lunch with someone who fondles their green beans? That’s just bizarre. I would guess that being PC with the boss is the least of that employee’s problems.

There has to be a limit to how conforming we are expected to be. Limits differ, but we all have one. There’s as much honor in taking one for the cause as there is in throwing something sharp. Depends on the situation. We each have to ride our own fence.


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