The streets were slick because the rain had been relentless all night and morning and I’d dropped my truck into “auto-sensing” so that four-wheel-drive would kick in if the need were there. I was about 2 miles of highway before my exit and it wasn’t quite 5 a.m. Coming around the big curve I suddenly saw a row of emergency flares and flashers bellying out into the road from a curb lane accident. I checked my left mirror, saw no traffic whatsoever and passed by a wide margin. As I was driving on I thought about the additional traffic that would be coming and thickening in the next few hours and the likelihood of an accident in such conditions.
As fate would have it a highway patrol car was sitting next to me at the stop light, in the center lane, when I got to my exit. I rolled the window down and motioned to him. He rolled down too and I explained how treacherous that curve back there was about to become with increased morning traffic. He thanked me and made a call on his radio as the light turned green and I headed on to work.
Maybe he ignored me. Maybe he didn’t. The important thing is I felt I should say something to someone who could affect a change if my assessment was deemed appropriate. But here’s the important part. Once I said something to someone who had a job related to road safety, which was my concern, it was time for me to move on and leave it alone. It was his job to assess and determine what would happen next. I wasn’t supposed to call the highway patrol headquarters and tell them that I spoke to someone in car number “XXX.” I wasn’t supposed to drive back to that area to see what they’d done. I was supposed to move on and tend to my own business, my own job, my own responsibilities. It isn’t that I didn’t care, that was already proven. The point is I know my place. I know how it feels when others presume they know what I should and shouldn’t be doing and they step in and impose that on me. I need to get on with the business that has been assigned to me.
Lately all the earth’s population seems to be people who can’t help but stick their nose into affairs which have nothing to do with them. When did this habit become so prominent?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on everything anymore.
I once learned that the great philosopher Socrates was said to be the wisest man that ever lived because he knew there were things he did not KNOW. Can you see how critical this awareness might be in the life of a contributing, humble, functioning human being?
Being nosy is something that is discouraged from the youngest of ages. I recall kids getting scolded when we were in elementary school. The teacher would tell us to “MYOB.” And if we didn’t “Mind Our Own Business” there was punishment involved.
Where has this lesson gone?
Throughout my career I have witnessed situations where I have to admit I wanted more information than I had. I wanted to dig a little deeper and get the inside scoop but when I began raising a family of my own and realized there were things about my personal life I didn’t want to share with everyone it began to make real sense to me why people want and deserve a little privacy. And more than just privacy, people have a right to do what they see as fit without having to explain it to anyone else.
That child that you see in the grocery store that’s getting spanked; we cringe at the parent’s lack of discretion and whisper to others about their obvious lacks as a compassionate human being but what we don’t know may be enormous. Maybe the child has been acting out all day, all week, all year. Maybe each of that child’s parents disciplines differently and the angry parent is the one that has to deal with the child the other parent is spoiling. The point is: WE DON’T KNOW THE BACK STORY so why should we feel we have the liberty to judge the way others handle their own situations. Be quiet. If the child is getting abused that’s a different story but we all know the pressures of parenthood; sometimes a kid needs a little drama to understand the point.
I think there is one basic rule of etiquette that simply should be expressed. That is that if your opinion is wanted , chances are good it will be requested. Until then or if not, be quiet.
This is not just limited to the daily condition of human interaction either. It is prominent in the workplace these days as well and people are expecting their supervisors to be conscientious gatekeepers. If you are in a leadership position and one of your staff members presumes to know it all and has an opinion about everything that everyone should and should not do, remind them that they need to tend to the issues that are their responsibilities and YOU will handle YOUR staff. Remember you owe that courtesy to your charges.
Maybe in the confines of your family you are the one who centralizes all the opinions and emotions of the group and you have become “skilled” at getting involved. That doesn’t mean that talent is welcome in the workplace. One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise.
In short you need to worry about you. If you have staff you need to worry about them but you need to be sure they don’t worry, influence or impact the actions of their departmental peers. That’s the supervisor’s job and you need to be sure they know that. And your staff needs to be sure they can rely on that. If staff feels their job or people’s interpretation of their work could reflect poorly based on the biased opinion of another worker they will most likely react in a negative way. This breeds contempt, mistrust, rumor, etc. This is therefore a habit that must be deterred quickly, consistently and constantly. Left to fester, allowing that kind of unwanted speculation is seen as favoritism and will ruin a company.
Peter . . . said to Jesus, ’But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ’. . . what is that to you? You follow Me’ —John 21:21-22
Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .