Those who know me well will confirm that I tend to notice patterns arising … not of the paisley or floral variety, but via occurrences in everyday life. I see it as a process designed to awaken my spiritual awareness and this week the topic of “telling it as it is” has been bothering me …. not sugaring the pill … spitting it out …. and so forth. Interesting that we use metaphors associated with taste, the mouth or the ejection of it’s contents in connection with efforts to say what we’re thinking, ask what we really want to know or impart sensitive information. Our feelings and thoughts originate in our hearts, our minds, our souls …. and yet there is the impression that the mouth is the holding bay until we give voice to them.
I read only this morning that in order to speak your absolute truth you have to be entirely disinterested with the ensuing opinions of others …. how true.
Some years ago I worked as a sales account manager in London for a reasonably prestigious company, and my direct report was to a man who legitimately prefixed his name with “The Right Honourable” ….I kid you not. Picture the scene, girl from the north with table manners and plenty of sales experience is working for well-educated, terribly well-spoken public school chap (let’s call him the RH for the mildly comedic purpose).
I suspected from the off that my relationship with the RH was destined to have an air of unease about it; I could never put my finger on it (nor did I particularly want to, if I’m honest) but there was a sense of twitching discomfort whenever we were in the same room together. This was possibly borne out of the fact that the RH was told to employ me by his direct superior, an old sales director of mine. I don’t think RH’s take too kindly to being told to take on a filly they’ve not had some hand in selecting; certainly this one didn’t.
Then after a sales appointment one day he came out with it ….. “you can be so direct on occasion …. it’s so harsh …..” I think the fact that as a sales person you were actually supposed at some point to be direct and close the deal had escaped him …. but there you have it. And over the years a couple of other male colleagues made the same comment about me.
I have to hold my hand up and say I see it as a compliment; there seems to be so many people who fiddle around the outskirts of a topic and never really cut to the chase. For some reason they cannot bring themselves to ask the question or say what is really on their minds … Maybe because if they raise their heads above the parapet someone will take a shot at them; of course that’s a risk …. but surely we should all be prepared to take a critical bullet if something needs saying?
Mr Distant Cynic was always superbly direct … for the most part. We would often drag ourselves wearily through a communication drought when he needed to ask a sensitive question, I guess in the hope that I would volunteer the information up front. I never did, because ballsy and gutsy as I may have been in a professional environment, I can vacillate with the best of them when it comes to personal relationships. On the other hand, when I wanted to know something from him, he would answer my question as quick as a shot, often fatally wounding my sensitivity in the process.
A phrase that he used with remarkable regularity was “if you don’t want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question” Oh, how I loved that one …. interestingly enough he usually delivered it on the telephone.
Last week we arranged to meet up briefly before he left for five days away on a cycling tour, four hundred and fifty kilometres and most of it uphill; I still have no idea why ….
As we sat and drank our afternoon tea he joked that my style of communication with him had grown unquestionably brusque, and with that he pulled out his mobile phone …”let me tell you how you responded to my text asking if you fancied meeting up …. ah yes … here we go ….. ‘yes I bloody do, but we need to be done and dusted by 3.40pm’ …”
Mr Perfect (the perfect surgeon) was another man direct in nature, but with a bedside manner that necessitated immediate forgiveness.
On the day after my procedure, he visited my room to check on my progress and asked if I had managed to get up and take a brief stroll. When I answered that I hadn’t due to the searing pain, he replied “well you should have; a bed is for sleeping in, nothing more.” Had I not been horizontal, without lipgloss and half-bandaged like a mummy, I would have told him that was not strictly true, as badinage to disarm his steely countenance.
There is just something about a man who wears those little half-glasses, has Mozart’s Serenade No.13 in G minor as his ringtone and scrawls all over you with a marker pen in preparation for his imminent masterpiece that makes it acceptable for him to be as direct as he wants …. I had, after all, consented to being laid unconscious and half-naked on a table before the man …. and with a scalpel in his hand I wanted him to be as decisive, swift and to the point as he liked.
Often I close my eyes to daydream and he is peering at me over the top of those glasses, taking a break from perusing the Times at our breakfast table. I tentatively ask about the dinner we’re attending on Friday evening … I’m just not sure my black Karen Millen number is right for it ….
“Deborah, if you need to buy something new then just say so. My card is upstairs on the dresser”. And with that, he goes back to the Times.
Let’s face it, a man with a penchant for being direct would always get his just reward ….