This week’s IOTW comes to us all the way from the West Coast, where my friend Brooke just wrapped up a summer internship. On one of her final days, a full-time colleague at her firm walks up to her and greets her by saying, “So you are the only one of the interns who didn’t get hired on, huh?” This isn’t the most tactfully stated observation. It’s also not a great way to start a conversation. Most people open with a “hi, hello, how are you” before they jump right in to their inappropriate questions. Now, this colleague had no ill intention and did not wish to imply that Brooke was the last kid picked in gym class, or the sad, pathetic, unemployable leftovers. Brooke is a stellar candidate for any job, and had in fact already been offered one in another area of the firm. In IOTW’s mind, he was simply making an observation. “The grass is green. The sky is blue. Everyone got hired, except for you!” And this is the problem with tactless people – they don’t even realize they are doing something wrong. But that doesn’t make it any less offensive. The rules still apply. There are certain things you just can’t go around saying to people.
And if I have to follow the rules, so should everybody else! If you have a social or neurological disorder that prevents you from reading situations and applying social sensitivity, I understand that is beyond your control. But otherwise, you don’t get a free pass to be rude just because you are fucking clueless. That’s your fault.
Do you think I like being tactful? Hell no! It is tedious. Do you know how much time I waste thinking of the polite way to phrase things? It’s basically all people do at work. Hmm, what is the polite way of saying, “I just told you that yesterday,” or “The answer to your question is in the email you just replied to. Learn how to fucking read.” How do I explain, “That is in no way my job so I really can’t imagine why you are asking me this.” How do I interrupt this person to say, “My keys are still in the ignition, so please wait until I am at my desk, or at least out of my car, to start asking me these questions.”
And don’t you think I’d like to blurt out my observations? I’d fucking love it! I went to the zoo last week and the most fascinating exhibit I saw was a homo sapien wearing a shredded t-shirt, in the shape of a cross, that showed right through to her bra and enormous gut. I wanted to gawk and ask her what in the world led her to that wardrobe decision. But instead I looked away like I had seen nothing out of the ordinary, as if she were the 100th topless obese woman I had seen that day. Been there, seen that, got the (shredded) t-shirt. Being tactful is everyone’s cross to bear. Sometimes it means bearing the bare skin behind a cross, but usually it means keeping your damn mouth shut!