Stiletto Woman: Embracing New Ideas
Dear Old People:

Know When to Shut Up and Sit Down

By Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Hummpff!  Now that I've gotten your attention with that incredibly rude title...

This past week conservative columnist David Brooks wrote In Search of Dignity.

"When George Washington was a young man, he copied out a list of 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Some of the rules in his list dealt with the niceties of going to a dinner party or meeting somebody on the street...

The dignity code commanded its followers to be disinterested — to endeavor to put national interests above personal interests. It commanded its followers to be reticent — to never degrade intimate emotions by parading them in public. It also commanded its followers to be dispassionate — to distrust rashness, zealotry, fury and political enthusiasm.

But the dignity code itself has been completely obliterated. The rules that guided Washington and generations of people after him are simply gone."

He then goes on to give three examples of people "who simply do not know how to act" - Michael Jackson, Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin.   Of the three, I can come closest to understanding Ms. Palin's lack of dignity (understand, not condone.)  We women (yes, I'm generalizing) are still learning our way in the larger worlds of politics and business, which are big, cold, unfair and always for both sexes (At least nowadays - in the U.S. anyway - the new leader doesn't behead the old one.) Yes, there is sexism, but...we're also learning that maybe, just maybe dressing for sex (c'mon - red spike peep-toe heels on the campaign trail?) and expecting people to not remark on it may be a wee bit too much to ask of our age-old mental programming. (Pile on here as you will, but that sexism thing works both ways. It's a sure bet that conservative columnist William Kristol wouldn't be such a stalwart defender of Sarah Palin if she talked like Sarah and looked like Janet Napolitano.)

We're awfully gosh darn touchy at times, to our own detriment and others' bemusement and bewilderment. (Sometimes a compliment is just that - a compliment), and we end up lowering ourselves when we should be rising above.  (If Palin acts like this when a late-night comedian disses her, what would she do when Putin was "mean" to her?)  And, we are often our own (and each other's) worst enemy.  We let no slight go unremarked; no grudge die.  More than once, I've watched seemingly mature, successful businesswomen go at it like 8th graders over the cute boy. 

Just this week, I had the choice.  Someone was pushing ALL my buttons and it could have rapidly degenerated into an email cat fight. But, instead - I took a deep breath, re-read this article and simply...stopped.  I moved on.  

Acting with dignity could make all of our lives (and business relationships) both less stressful and more productive.  And, when we think we simply must fight a battle, we should first ask ourselves "Is it really that important?" Otherwise, we'll diminish both ourselves and our possibilities.

(P.S.  If you want to wear stilettos, by all means do so, but also be aware of the realities and the context.)


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Beth Gray

I love this. This is exactly what I am going through right now. I am a 50 year old woman and live with all of the assumptions of who I am just based on that. If the ageist profiling isn't bad enough in my personal life, my livelihood is now in jeopardy because I may be "out of touch". How ridiculous. I have sat through meeting after meeting with a room full of clueless 30 year olds and their brilliant ideas, these would be the same ideas we did 20 years ago when I was 30. Does no one in the workplace find out their company's history anymore? I build community every day with my blog, and as part of your new network of friends, we stand with you. -

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