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.
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 hard...as 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.)