By Stephen Garber
We are inundated with opportunities to judge—who is right, who is wrong? Whether we think he or she did or didn’t. What did he know, and when did he know it? Is it within the bounds of the law? Or was it the intent of the founders?
We see it at work all the time. May we compliment our female colleagues on how they look? The way they are dressed? If we suggest meeting for a drink, is that good team building or is it a proposition? Saying “young lady” is condescension to some people, while it might be a compliment to others. Holding a door for a woman was the way I was brought up. Now I’m seen by some as a chauvinist.
And women have to be totally careful about how they dress in professional settings: too suggestively? Too manly? We all seem to be on the edge of not being allowed to be ourselves. A hug? Rubbing someone’s sore, tired neck and shoulders if you’re not a licensed and insured therapist? Dangerous stuff now …
if we let it be.
How are we to know?
At the risk of being naïve—and, sometimes, I am—I believe that we all actually know what the boundaries are. Intention matters. I recently was speaking with a senior executive about a vice president of his who is hugely talented and successful. He also rocks boats, leaves a wake and can be polarizing. His 360-degree evaluation is all over the place, from worst to first and back to worst again.
Yet the one thing that the senior executive “knows” is that his VP’s “heart is in the right place—his intentions are always good. That’s plain and simple for all to see.”
As we have these conversations, I am reminded of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography. “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced… but I know it when I see it.”
Yes, we live in a time of outrageous, unbelievable stories of kids shooting kids in all kinds of neighborhoods. Of parents abusing children in crazy, unfathomable ways. Of a lone gunman opening fire in Las Vegas.
And we cannot let those stories be our moral compass. We lose our humanity when we don’t appreciate beauty, kindness and effort to “show up well” when we don’t offer the warm touch and the light embraces at a tender moment—even at work.
For some of you, I hope these thoughts help you look into your heart and ask, “What would my mom, grandma, or daughter think of what I am doing or saying?”
For most of you, I hope it helps you to be your genuine, kind self, appreciating everyone’s point of view and being considerate of his/her boundaries. You know—we know—what’s right.♦
Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or email@example.com.