I am a person, historically, who has great difficulty with 1) not getting all riled up when contentious items are discussed in a meeting and 2) not speaking my mind about those contentious issues. This has been a problem for me throughout my career – beginning in graduate school (seriously), continuing through my pre-tenure years (though I worked really, really hard – sometimes even successfully – to control my impulses during that time), and coming into full flower in my years since earning tenure.
But in the past year or two, I’ve realized that the only person I’m hurting by giving into those impulses to get Riled Up and to Speak My Mind is myself. See, it turns out that my righteous indignation and impassioned speeches have not tended, most of the time, to make a real difference in things that are stupid. And when they have made a difference, I’ve often had to pay for the difference that was made in the form of bearing the brunt of various kinds of blame, more work, and less job satisfaction. So, I’ve been trying to mold myself into a “new, serene me.”
Today, I think that I reached a new milestone in my quest for serenity. See, I knew that a particular discussion item on an agenda promised to be tense – that the discussion might even become shouty. So I brought my most complicated lace project that I’m knitting to this meeting. Oh happy day! The meeting was tense, and some people did get a little exercised. But not me! I was focused on yarning over and slip-slip-knits and kitting two and three together! Purling purling purling on the even rows! I listened, and I had opinions about what was said, but my hands were busy. I made one comment – and it was productive. Otherwise, I kept my head down, stitching away. (Note: I wonder if in a less egalitarian time historically if this is how women used their handcrafts – to allow them not to lose their minds at things that pissed them off.)
Now, nothing was decided as a result of that discussion, and nothing was accomplished either. By staying out of it for the most part, I didn’t shirk any responsibility, nor did I just check out of the discussion – I was very engaged in listening. What I did accomplish, though, was keeping my head cool and getting through 6 rows of my pattern. And further: I was not the most angry person in that meeting!
Will anything actually happen with this contentious issue? Maybe something will, but not before next academic year, if at all, and if it really comes up for something more than discussion, like in the form of a voting item, that will be my moment to sound off. But for now? I am so happy that I didn’t get provoked.