There are days when it seems like I am from the last generation of people taught to lead their lives based on some basic tenants:
- Always say please and thank you.
- Be respectful of and never speak back to your elders.
- Don't start a fight just for the sake of arguing.
- If you're going to speak, make sure you've got something to say.
It was morals and belief systems like these that shaped most of my generation in our youth. And our parents, bless our parents, by and large did a good enough job at hammering these things into our little psyches so that we still remember them to this day. More than even remembering, they are ingrained deep into our minds and our mannerisms.
This is great....fantastic, really! Thanks to people like my mom and dad, there are adults like myself running around who always say please and thank you, always hold doors for others, never fail to bless even strangers when they sneeze. We defer to our elders, and we don't make waves when riding out the tide would be easier for everyone involved.
So my question is: how can one balance these basic principles of not being a complete jackass with having a successful professional life?
It's counterintuitive, if you think about it. People such as myself, we make good and do good by remembering our manners and respecting those who are meant to be shown respect. And then...we enter the work world, and suddenly we're not 'assertive' enough. We need to 'speak up' more. We should 'share our opinions' on every little thing from where to have the office lunch to what color to make the logo. And...you know...that is fine. Except, people such as myself sometimes find ourselves shrugging our shoulders and saying 'I can eat wherever.' or 'Black...red....gray...I like them all.' And we're not just SAYING it...we really CAN see the logo in any of those colors, and no matter what we think it'll look great. Is there really anything wrong with that?
Well, yes and no, I suppose. I've never been known as a good decision maker. I will suffer through dinner at Res Lobster - despite being staunchly anti-seafood - if it's what everyone else wants and I can just get a Diet Coke and a salad. I have no problem with the gray OR the red OR the black in the logo. I think it's a bonus to be laid back and adaptable to change. But sometimes, I suppose, in the professional world it is important to be able to make snap decisions and decisevely choose black over gray.
So, what is a girl to do? I can't very well just ignore my mom and dad's teachings whispering to me 'Be nice to that woman, even if she never follows through - after all she's your elder.', can I? And am I supposed to fabricate a strong opinion on green file folders vs blue when really I don't see the damn difference? How do I balance these conflicting parts of my life: the teachings of my parents (which, by the way, I refuse to forget because I think these things also happen to be the markers of decent and kind human beings) vs the expectations places on modern professionals?
I don't have the answer. But I do wonder if anyone else out there does.