Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

One of my major pet peeves is rude people. It doesn’t matter if it is in the area of customer service, being cut off by a dim-witted driver because they just have to cut you off in traffic only to end up right behind them at the red light, or by way of dealing with work associates.

Rudeness, is abundant in the world, especially in the work place. Now I must confess when it comes to rude individuals, I have had to work overtime to delay my reaction to avoid swiftness of speech that could place me in a position to be written up or to the very extreme fired on the spot.

Right along with rudeness is arrogance. I tell you no lie, if I were in place of God, and thank goodness I am not, I would without hesitation impute undeniable pain to those who believe themselves to be so above the average person. Rudeness and arrogance in my opinion go hand-in-hand.

Arrogant people are ill-mannered because they are in need of humility. Meaning, they don’t have it and think they don’t need it, therefore they do not want it. We all could use humility because quite frankly, no one is above failing, but there is a certain amount of strength one needs to be in possession of when it comes to dealing with uncouth souls. These same individuals I believe, at the very core of their souls are masking their inferiority or wielding their swords of superiority as they believe themselves to be.

You may often see it when people cannot control you, from the simplest things of being in a meeting and having a side conversation that isn’t necessarily disturbing but because they have an insatiable appetite to have all things go their way, they would like to publicly punish you for not conforming to their unspoken standards.

Then there are those whose quiet assumptions about your presence in a meeting will eventually unfold. Sometimes all it takes is a probing questions and when you hear them stumbling over their words, and the grimace appears upon their face because now you have ventured in a territory that they deemed you unworthy to tread because your questioning raised up those quiet assumptions locked away in the basement of their conscience that

a. You are Inferior to them and how dare you question, even if the thing you are inquiring about has nothing directly related to your position but still noteworthy to understand an overall process.

b. Your questioning unknowingly challenges their intense need to feel good about themselves and is seen as an insult so they respond with you don’t need to know, it is above your head, we know you don’t know, etc.

c. By virtue of you being different, you are beneath them and your inability to conform to some sort of stereotypical standard results in them being cognitively dissonant.

d. Or simply put, you are considered the new kid on the block and they feel intimidated that you are going to usurp their kingdom and dethrone them as the fairest of them all.

And sometimes ladies, as a woman of color, as a black woman, you may feel damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. In some instances, it is not about you being a woman of color. It is you being a woman who happens to be perceived as a potential threat to other women because women tend to be very vicious and competitive. I wouldn’t say it is necessarily a feminine quality or characteristic, but rather a human one.

Oftentimes, women are categorized as catty and petty more so to describe women in a humiliating matter as if their male counterparts are aggressive and strong while women are recognized as emotionally unattached and feeble minded. Men can be just as competitive as women, in fact I would say all the more so, it is just that it is hailed as some favorable masculine quality if a man does it.

Sometimes, the primary emphasis is placed on you being a woman of color and you will immediately know it. If you never had this happen to you on the basis of your ethnicity, well I could understand why you would have a high level of skepticism and be extremely dismissive. If you have been treated as a princess all of your life and told you are the standard of which women should aspire to, then I am speaking a foreign language. But to the women of color, before you default to play the race card, always go with the human card first and if all the evidence lines up to it being an issue of your ethnicity, not necessarily being racist but borderline, handle yourself respectively and if necessary, document accordingly.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Now let’s talk about how you can get poor treatment from those who look like you. I have to admit, I am surprised at how other black people expect black woman to react harshly and negatively in the work place because it is assumed that your standards, behaviors and expectations are so low, that you are supposed to act like an undisciplined child when people bring offense. Talk about the bigotry of low expectations.

And let’s highlight how this offense, the rudeness and arrogance of individuals is intentional. It is deliberate. These people think the way they think and say the things they mean because they either believe you are too stupid to see it or not brave enough to point it out. Ultimately, it all ties into how they feel about themselves and what they PERCEIVE about you.

The best way to learn about how great a leader or anyone for that matter is, is how well he/she speaks of his/her subordinates or those in lesser positions, when they are NOT in their presence. Now I know that have been bobbing and weaving about the difficulty and challenges of not falling into perceived stereotypes, even from those who share your phenotype, you have to accept that people like these will flatter you with smooth words, but they really do not think highly of you and that is because no one is truly going to esteem you higher than themselves, and if they do, watch out because they are coming to snatch the rug right from up under your feet.

So you are dealing with two sides of the same coin: on one side the rude and arrogant individual doesn’t think your skill set is sufficient to bring you to the adult table. On the other side, you are being judged for not behaving like a child at the adult table.

This is how I believe you handle situations such as these. In the work place or in life, it is not your job to manage people’s perceptions and cater to their insecurities. It is your job to know your function, execute your task and consistently deliver. Do not fall into the trap of trying to prove yourself to a person who masquerades as a subject matter expert to cover up their lack of self-confidence. Or who uses your lack of knowledge as an opportunity to one up on you because your presence threatens them. Remember, desperate rats always scatter about looking for cheese when their supply runs low. Stay in your lane and keep it moving.

As it relates to the other side, when you are dealing with low frequency people passing themselves off as high octane individuals, you have to know which battle to choose. Oftentimes, these battles are fruitless and you will come back worn, torn with no spoils as proof of your victory. Other times, it will require a strong rebuke and to leave them be. Granted you cannot manage the boomerang of their predictable triggering, but you can make it clearly known where you stand and it is up to them to either accept your unwillingness to conform to their low expectations or reject the negative perception about you as the lie that it really is.

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