25/05/2012

Wolf Whistles and barbs

On the news this morning were articles telling of a recent report into abuse and inappropriate sexual contact of women. I'll start off by saying any form of contact or communication that makes anyone feel threatened or abused is inappropriate.

Having said that, the poor old wolf whistle got lined up for its usual battering, and I feel kind of sorry for it. OK, I get it, for some its not welcome, and I get that it can make people feel threatened. maybe that's because its overused? I don't know. I've never had anyone whistle at me.

But that got me thinking about something slightly different. What is an acceptable way to show ones appreciation, and how is one supposed to know when its appropriate? I mean, if you go to effort of making yourself look smart, what could be worse than nobody noticing?

But on a more serious note, it did ring a bell with me about the impact of (presumably) innocent comments/gestures. Very recently, someone I interact with on a regular basis made another in a series of jabs about my technical skills/knowledge in an area which I have never professed to be expert, or even competent. My first reaction was anger, and a desire to strike back - but when I picked at it a bit more I realised my reaction was because I was hurt. Not offended, plain old hurt.

I confess. I have just been on a 'management training' course, and I've just been dealing with this sort of interaction, but it still came as a surprise. I'm sure that this person thinks they are being funny. Might be, to them. Even maybe to others. Not to me.

So, to get to the point (at last, I hear you cry), something that was mentioned right in the dying gasp of this course, which is relevant to both the situations above, stuck in my head and I will be trying to keep it there.

"We are personally responsible for the impact of our communications."

Or to put it another way, don't assume the person on the other end of your comment will interpret it the same way as you. I know its a generalisation, but maybe its a good place to start.

2 comments:

  1. This topic comes up with stunning regularity, doesn't it. In the end inappropriate behaviour is inappropriate... it's that simple. If you're not sure if your behaviour is inappropriate it almost certainly is. The unawareness of it is what is going to get you into trouble.

    I have personally never heard a wolf whistle in my entire life, and that's after 20 years of working with men on construction sites. This is why I feel I live in a world that is not really reflected in mass media.

    Hope you have a great weekend, Robert.

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