Standard Operating Procedure

I had shoulder surgery two weeks ago. Today I went to get my stitches out. It’s a simple thing, really, but important. The PA who took them out was a nice young man who was chatty and had a good bedside manner. He did a great job: careful, caring, gentle. All of that should go without saying, right? Except that it doesn’t. I’ve had PAs rip out my stitches as if they were tearing threads from an old sofa, not dealing with a sentient being. It takes so little — so very little — to treat others with care. And yet it seems to get harder every day.

I told Nick — the PA — what a great job he was doing, and he seemed genuinely surprised that I would have had any experience different from the one I was having with him. And that’s as it should be. If your SOP is to treat others kindly and compassionately, you can’t imagine any other way of treating people.

I’ve had some decidedly unpleasant written communications with people lately. Okay, with one person in particular. This person started our friction with an insulting email chock full of misogynoir. At the time, I decided not to stoop to their level in my response, and it seems that decision has invited them to continue to write to me from a place of disrespect and pettiness. Swell.

Unlike PA Nick, this colleague doesn’t have a baseline behavior of treating other people with kindness and compassion. They use all the right words, the words we expect to hear in “brave space,” “safe space,” “inclusive” spaces. Meanwhile, their default response mode is to lash out first and then slip back into friendly SJW language, attempting to gaslight others into thinking they’ve imagined the rudeness. Except the rudeness is in print. It takes but a moment to go back and check, to confirm that the obnoxious comments you thought you’d read were truly the obnoxious comments you’d read.

I am slowly regaining the use of my arm, and Nick’s gentle stitch removal is a nice part of my move forward. I don’t feel as though I’m regaining my ability to be in cordial conversation with this email-writing colleague, however. I thought I was, thought I’d made clear that rudeness and disrespect weren’t acceptable. The message didn’t land. Now all I want is to slap this person upside the head, something I know I can’t do (and know that I wouldn’t do, even it were an acceptable response and they were standing in front of me right this minute).

What I need to do is remember. I need to remember how long it took to come back from this surgery when I had it done on my left shoulder … and that wasn’t even my dominant arm and hand!

I need to remember how to move slowly and carefully. And that’s what I need to do with this colleague, too. Slow and careful feels frustrating when I want to be quick, venomous, razor sharp. But patience is what wins here. I had to start working my arm with no weight, and then with the one-pound weight, and then with two pounds. It was painstakingly slow, just like Nick’s painstaking care removing my stitches this morning. Fast and sharp would not have been my friends then, and they won’t be my friends as I draft my response. I need just as much care in my writing as Nick used on my shoulder. So much care that, when he ran into some trouble and said, “I need to get a scalpel,” I didn’t freak out because I knew he would continue to work slowly, carefully, and gently.

I don’t feel a pressing need to be gentle with this colleague. The slow and careful is for me, not for them. Slow and careful means I can get through to the other side knowing I did my absolute best and put thought into my words, not disgust and anger. It’s all for me, for taking care of myself.

We’ll see how I do.


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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

6 thoughts on “Standard Operating Procedure

  1. Your post is an excellent lesson: not only in how you will tell yourself how to respond to that rude colleague, but also in how to make connections between one aspect of your life and another. You’re your own therapist. But you could write a story about what you’d really like to do to that rude person.

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    1. I love the idea of writing a story about what I’d like to do! I’ve pushed myself to respond appropriately, as challenging as that was. Writing an alternative story might be a good antidote for the bad taste this all leaves in my mouth!

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  2. Wow! There are so many layers to peel back here. While I agree that you being the bigger person is the best course of action. However, I like Sonia’s idea of writing the story of what “could happen”. It could make for a very creative tale! 😉

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    1. I used to work in city government and had to give talks somewhat often. I got very good at being the bigger person, saying the more tactful version of the things I wanted to say. I’m glad I have so much practice with that skill … but I do wish I didn’t have to use it so often! 🙂

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  3. “The slow and careful is for me, not for them.” That my dear friend is it in a nutshell. While, a well deserved throat punch would give instant gratification, it does not provide the long-term relief needed for dealing with such colleagues. At the end of the day your mental well-being is a valid to nurture as your physical and you’re doing great.

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    1. Yes. Years ago I had that epiphany about forgiveness, that when I choose to forgive someone, the forgiveness is for my wellbeing. It really helps to remember that these actions are more about me than about the other person. Makes taking the high road easier. 🙂

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