Monday, December 12, 2011

Be careful what you say

In the last post I mentioned I sometimes have conversations I don't remember later, even when I was young. It is what people who are running for president should remember. Anything you've ever said or done can be used against you later.

It is amazing how something you say can have a lasting effect on someone else. Something that was so unimportant that you don't even remember it, can color a person's entire perception of you for years to come. What brought this to mind was a co-worker's story not long ago, when I was training a new person. Someone I'd worked with for years said to the new employee, "Oh, Melanie is a good person to have train you. She knows how to make you feel at home."

I stared at her, puzzled. I couldn't remember ever making an effort to make someone "feel at home."

"Don't you remember?" she asked. "You trained me."

I shrugged, vaguely remembering the training ten years before. "I guess."

She turned to the new worker. "It was my first day, and Melanie was showing me how to do the invoicing. I was very nervous, and at some point I opened my mouth and my gum fell out."

You'd think I'd remember that.

"What did I do?" I asked, sure I would have laughed, pointed and maybe handed her a bottle of glue to stick the gum back in her mouth. Or maybe I whipped out a pad of paper and pen and jotted it down, saying she would be in my next book.

"You looked down at the gum," she said, "then back at me, nodded and said, 'Oh, yeah, you are really going to fit in with the rest of us. We made the right choice.'"

I don't remember that at all, but it apparently made her like me from that moment forward. I didn't have the heart to tell her I probably wasn't being kind, but suspect I was merely stating a fact. She did fit in. It was just good fortune she took it as kindness.

But ever since then I wonder how many times it went the other way. How many times did I say something that made someone uncomfortable, or unhappy. I apologize to anyone I've insulted, demeaned, ignored or belittled, including that boy I called a pig-headed freak that time on the bus, riding home from middle school. And no, I'm not running for president, but Santa is certainly checking on his naughty and nice list.

Oh, and I'm really thinking of putting the gum incident into my next book.


  1. It is kind of freaky how our memories are all different. My kids have totally different memories of their upbringing than I have! Which is why we all should write our stories, to get synchronized.

  2. Linda,

    Yes, it is important to tell our side of the story. First. Before the other person has a chance to taint the jury.

  3. GREAT post! It really makes you think about how you act and what you say.

  4. I've been on the other side of that, where someone said something that stuck with me and they don't remember it. Just further proof we should all think before we speak....which is why I prefer writing, LOL. I can edit as many times as I like before anyone sees it!

  5. Melanie, if I haven't been mean or made you feel uncomfortable up to this point in our friendship, remind me on Thursday and I'll make you sorry we ever met.

  6. Yup. Communications is not WHAT you say; it's how the listener INTERPRETS what you say.

  7. Jase,

    You always say super-fabulous things to me, so you get on Santa's "nice" list.


    I've managed, in writing, to say ridiculously stupid things. Maybe I should have you edit for me. I hope the thing the person said was a nice thing, because you deserve it.

    Well said!!! I'm perfectly fine with someone accidentally thinking I've been kind.


    No, you are covered. You brought me to my creative knees the first night we met, and launched a blow to my confident middle the second time. You followed by ripping my fictional self to shreds for the next four weeks.

    We're good. See you Thursday.


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