Monday, March 22, 2010

Show Don't Tell Epiphany

I recently designed a document at work. I was quite proud of the document, and thought it was pretty. Someone I work with, who was managing the content of the document, told me he liked a certain design element another way. I disagreed in every cell of my body -- I felt the design element was better my way, for a number of reasons. I made my case. He disagreed and then argued with me that even though I may have reasons, he still "liked it better" the other way.

I stood there and thought, "But I have a degree in Art. And I've been designing for like 10 years." My biggest problem there was that he didn't respect my opinion, and not only disagreed but insisted his way was right, even though he doesn't any design experience whatsoever.

But I didn't mention that, mostly because I dislike confrontation, and also because I never manage to say the right thing at the right time. Instead, I returned to my desk and fumed at him, and fumed at myself for not knowing how to handle the situation. I printed out a page with the design element his way, and the design element my way, and compared them. And I liked my way -- overwhelmingly. I gave him fair play, and I still thought I was right. So what to do?

Well, I got some therapy via Google chat (the world's best therapy line) from a very smart colleague. He advised me that if I was sure I was right then I should not give in to him. Because giving into him would say something much louder than anything I could say verbally. I complained that nobody respects me (like this: "But nobody resspppeeecccttts meee!"), and he said, "It doesn't matter who says what or when, just control what you can, aka what you do."

And I went, "I say." (In a Peter O'Toole accent. It's more fun that way.)

So basically he was saying "Show them, don't tell them."

This has nothing to do with the design issue, by the way. It's just a long-winded and roundabout way of telling you how I got to the despairing, slightly PMS-y point of feeling disrespected in the work place. And how for me, showing, and not telling, is the only way to combat that disrespect.

(I did dig my heels in about the design issue. I ended up doing it my way, then sending it via email saying "I respectfully disagree, and here's why." And then I listed why. And he didn't bring it up again -- not because I had convinced him, but because I showed him I wasn't going to let it go. You know how I know he wasn't convinced? Because he didn't mention it. He just backed down.)

So, although we are told in our writing a million times to show and not tell, sometimes it takes a moment like this to really illustrate the point. I get it now. I mean, I kind of got it before, but only in a rule kind of way. Now I really get it. Actions speak louder than words.

7 comments:

Lt. Cccyxx said...

You have to choose your battles, but when something's important to you, dig in. Of course the problem comes in when you work with people who seem to disagree with you on everything, either because they're from Mars or just for the heck of it. It becomes really tedious to have to fight every step of the way because someone's on a power-trip. Of course, if they're not your boss, screw 'em.

CKHB said...

Cool.

Travener said...

Sierra -- tough as a chain of California mountains!

DL Hammons said...

Life-lessons are the best teaching tools...hands down!!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I like that. Actions speak louder than words, so show us something instead of telling us about it. Walk the walk... don't talk the talk. :)

Cool post!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks guys...it's not easy to remember to do every day!

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent example of show don't tell! Actions always speak louder than words! :) :)

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