I’ve been called “subtle as a freight train at 3am” more than once in my life and career.
The truth is, the “Derick Bailey” that you see and read on the internet isn’t the complete me. It’s not that I’m being fake or presenting something that isn’t true. It’s that after countless years of failing, I’ve finally learned that I don’t *need* to say everything that my brain thinks, all the time. Sure, I *can* if I want to. But the freedom to say something does not preclude from the responsibilities and consequences of what I say. So I find it is often better for me and for those that I want to help, if I just keep my mouth shut most of the time.
On Being Argumentative
When I was in college, I worked in a sound recording studio. I was responsible for maintaining equipment, cables and more. My boss once asked me to “fix” a cable that I did not think was broken. I argued that it was fine, and he presented evidence to the contrary. Eventually, he got frustrated with me and told me to do it because it’s my job, stating that I should not be so argumentative. I was mildly taken aback by the accusation of being argumentative, but even then I couldn’t deny it. It made me think a little more the next time I wanted to argue over something petty, with him.
At another college, I worked in the web development team. My boss was teaching me about database relationships and foreign keys. I understood why the ID from one table should be used in a column of another table, but I didn’t understand why referential integrity was important. My boss blurted out “BECAUSE I TOLD YOU TO!” when I asked him, “Why should I use a foreign key relationship, when I don’t need one?” for probably the 8th or 9th time in as many minutes. Again, I was mildly stunned by the outburst, but couldn’t deny that he was my boss. It made me think a little the next time I wanted to argue over the academics and learning vs getting something done on time, with him.
On Speaking Before Thinking
At my first job out of college, I walked in to the I.T. department one day and saw a (former) coworker being walked out the door with a cardboard boxes in tow. I assumed she was moving to a new cubicle or office and exclaimed, “What? Did she get fired or something?!” right in front of the department manager, the person that, yes, had been fired, and the rest of the employees who were now trying to hide their shocked expressions. I can only imagine the look on my face made the department’s collective look of shock pale in comparison, as I instantly realized what I had just said. I immediately walked in to my boss’ office and sat there, alone, waiting for him to show up for the day. He let me stew in my own horror and embarassment for a few minutes, and allowed me the opportunity to explain exactly why my actions and statements were so very very inappropriate.
Later, at the same job, I was working with a developer from a sibling company. He was walking me through setup of the software that he had built and I couldn’t get it working. I also saw a significant number of flaws in the security model. During a phone call between that developer, the Vice President of the sibling company, myself and my boss, I rather insistently and bluntly stated that the software wouldn’t work and that it was insecure. After nearly yelling at me, right then, the VP of the other company called my boss and yelled at him for 30 minutes. This was one instance where I truely did deserve the ensuing lecture on tact, the reprimand from my boss and the note on my review at the end of the year … deserved and received. This was one instance where it took a number of meetings and mentoring sessions with my boss, for me to understand a more appropriate method and timing for communicating my concerns. The lessons were hard for me, but I believe I came out the other side a better employee and coworker.
The Struggle Of Introspection
I’ve spent the last 15+ years dealing with the consequences of my own words and inability or unwillingness to control what I say. It may not seem that way, to those that only see the public side of me on the internet. But anyone that has worked with me directly, will have more than a fair share of stories to tell about me and my mouth.
Learning to filter my words, both written and spoken, has been one of the greates challenges in my career. It is also likely one of the most important lessons that I am continuing to learn. Most of the time, these days, I am able to delete that horrifying tweet before I hit send… or put off replying to that email until I’ve had a chance to think about how my response will (mis)interpreted. I’m not always successful in my endeavor to refrain from making an ass out of myself. But I have been fortunate in my career and my life, to have friends, family, mentors and even complete strangers at times, that have been willing to put up with me in order to help me become a better, more effective me, with language and communication.
We All Have Our Blunt, Freight Train Problems …
because we are all human, and not one of us has a complete understanding of how our words will be interpreted by those with whom we are communicating. It’s part of our nature to assume that our words and statements will be understood as we understand them… how else could they possibly be (mis)understood, after all?
It turns out, the experience and perspectives that we have shape our own understanding of words the same way that the experience and perspectives of others, shapes their understanding. And while we cannot ever be truly, 100% perfect in communication and expressing ideas so that everyone will always understand the point, we can at least work toward empathy in our actions and words… working toward a style of communication that at least attempts to understand the perspectives of the audience, even though we will never have the complete picture.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl