Old world wisdom, new world insight – poems, poetry, philosophy, dreams, commentary, ideas

The Toothpaste Moment

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by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

How many meetings have we been to when, unexpectedly, one person in the group comments about something another member has done or said?

We may have heard this declared or even aimed in our direction: “That’s so odd. I just have to say.”

Did the person who just got labeled as “odd”
FEEL something negative because of that declaration?

Declarations such as this are markers.
They are the DNA of culture bias.
They are cultivated in

business culture, personal and family culture, company culture, corporate culture, sexual bias culture, racially motivated culture, the culture of exclusion, and the most cutting, the bias of assumed familiarity. Most assuredly we have received the basis for our biases from the beginnings of our world view.

Even so – there is also the bias of the fear of rejection.
Do we have empathy for those who laugh the nervous laugh out of fear of being rejected or judged?

This situation is what we call the Toothpaste Moment.
We are not in the habit of agreeing when being called out for our failures.
Are we?

No one has to express an opinion, and that does not mean that singled-out person
has suddenly stopped feeling odd
because that’s not how YOU meant it.

This is the kind of situation when you can’t put the words, the toothpaste, back into the tube.
Spoken words can just be opinions. But, opinions are, well, hold that thought. 

Let’s go back to 1984 B.C. (before computers)
Remember how awkward it was to stand around with a group of strangers and NOT have a phone to stare at? No?
(You, newbies, have 30 seconds to check email, now.)

So-called communication gurus have happily labeled groups of strangers as: “friends we have not met yet.”
Back then, those people were strange-ers.

We introduced ourselves to these new faces and potential customers.
Elevator speech?
There were mostly only stairs in buildings back then…
(You, newbies, have 30 seconds to check email, again.)

So, we talked – face-to-face – to each other about something crazy at work.
In reaction these people said, “Whoa! Where do you WORK, anyway?”
We told them.

If we happened to share the “that’s so odd” declaration, we usually got:
l wouldn’t work there if they talked about me like that.”

We, the people, say stupid things.
We reveal what is in our hearts when we think it is okay with everybody.
We express our biases covertly and overtly.

When we are strangers, it is easy to discover who among us is negative or judgmental.

When we are colleagues, it is much more difficult, and often surprising,
when we discover our work population is more biased than when we first met.

When they finally express their bias it is something brutally honest.
It’s just their innocent observation.

What our heart hears is more like, “I don’t admire you, or what you do. Don’t take it personally, that would be silly.”


Old School is the New Black.
Were people nicer, or smarter, or easier to talk to, or great sales pitch reps before computers?
Strangers still embraced THEIR brutally honest truth as sure as the day is long.
Good communicators still listened, asked questions, and gave opinions that supported or praised.

How do we keep our biases in check in today’s work environment?
Please accept this brutally honest OLD SCHOOL advice:
“If you can’t say something nice, do not say anything at all.”

Opinions are like . . . you know.

If you want to read more about how biases affect us,
I recommend this book
Dr. Joy DeGruy’s Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Copyright © 1960-2019 Lawrence J. J. Leonard  All rights reserved

Author: SpindoctorUSA

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