Joe Clark ~~ Jul 15, 2003

As I write this, I am on a flight returning to Cedar Rapids from Dallas, the last leg of one of my now almost routine business trips. As I reflect on the work done, I am pleased that we accomplished what we did, but I am also a little distressed about my overall attitude. I could attribute it to lack of sleep, but I really got a fair amount of sleep -- usually at least as much as I get at home. I could attribute it to the stress of travelling -- but this Dallas<->Cedar Rapids travel is not all that stressful anymore. The best thought is that it is a product of frustration when things don't work like I want them too, and while that's a valid explanation, I don't know if it's a good excuse or not.

If you know me very well, you might say that I have a bit of a split personality. From time to time I like to "think great thoughts" and dwell on thoughts of joy and the ideal life and all that good stuff, but I also complain a lot at work. Really, I guess the two personalities are quite similar -- both are a symbol of my striving for perfection, or at least my desiring to get my way. Can you see the similarity between "Love me please" and "I love beautiful sunsets" and "Write the software the way that makes sense to me"? All three are about getting my way and pleasing me.

So, if I were to overanalyze my life, it would seem that I am a whiner. I think my whining has merit, but the fact is it's still whining. What really surprises me is that people still seem to see me (I think) as a happy-go-lucky person, which is kind of the way I want it to be -- not carefree to the point of not caring, but carefree to the point of thinking in unique ways and being creative. But if all I do is complain and say "stupid crud" a lot, what will people think? I think if I say it enough, if I vent too much, then they will eventually get tired of it and I will be more of an annoyance -- more a liability than an asset, which is obviously not the state I want to end up in.

On a related note, while I was waiting in the airport, I was reading a section of the book "Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them" on the topic of conflict resolution. I realize based on current experience as well as past experience that I'm not good at dealing with conflict. I'm sort of passive-aggressive about it. I see the passiveness the most when dealing with kids. I don't like being the disciplinarian, so I will let them get away with more than I probably should, although it annoys me....but if it goes on long enough, I will get MAD, which is the other wrong end of the spectrum. In either case, I'm not handling the situation appropriately. In other affairs, in dealing with my adult peers, a different problem is seen. The book was talking about how conflict resolution should be (at least initially) between the 2 parties directly affected. But I realize that many times in my life if I'm mad at someone I'll look for a third party rather than confronting the person in question. Here's one excuse: I think that I get along well with most people, and if there are some people I don't get along with, then talking to them more won't help. That's how it seems in my head, even though that's not necessarily the case. And if the conflict were over a specific problem, then it would be easier, but when I have conflict it tends to be over personality types or things like that -- and those kinds of conflicts are harder to solve, because it's not one specific problem that can be solved.

I think a big part of this conflict resolution problem, just like so many others, has to do with communication. I can see that happening over and over in the work environment -- miscommunications happen all the time, and the direct results of that are lost productivity and more workplace conflict. I know that I need to practice the skill of "active understanding" -- to not just assume I know what someone is trying to say, but to actually take the extra time to repeat back to them what they said in some way so I know that I understood the statement. That's a surprisingly simple step that is overlooked too often, at least for me.

So now I have a new label for myself. I am a miscommunicating whiner. :-) You love me even more now right? Well, that's okay, you don't have to love me more yet. But I do hope to think about these issues more as time goes on, in the workplace and in the rest of my life as well (but right now the workplace is the best ground for testing in this area). Anyone have any more tips on the subject?