Word Count: 480
That’s Using Your Head
By Peg Scarano
For as long as I can remember, I have been an outgoing person. I love meeting people and talking to friends and associates – old and new. I believe this trait was an asset in my career of marketing, community services and fund development in the healthcare field. Let’s face it, you need to be able to communicate in order to market a service and/or attract people to your business and most of all, when you ask someone for money.
Tact is a characteristic that works well with being outgoing. My personal definition of tact means not putting your foot in your mouth – ever – for any reason. As far as work goes, my diplomacy worked very well most of the time. There were a few times my skills faltered, but I could usually talk myself out of any delicate fix I managed to create. If I couldn’t, I was surrounded by good people who covered my back with grace and ease.
My personal life, however, was a bit different. My guard was usually down at home; I was more relaxed; and when you’re with people you love, you kind of assume they will accept you as you are and understand what you say without judgment or consequences. This worked well for me until my children became adults and found significant others and these significant others had parents and relatives that I needed to communicate with while being sensitive to their needs and feelings. My children were suddenly concerned about certain phrases that flowed freely from my mouth and I found I was frequently reprimanded for speaking my mind first without necessarily connecting to my brain.
For the first time in my life I tried being reserved – I withdrew and when I spoke, I silently questioned and guarded each spoken word like a loyal sentry. Nothing passed my mouth without a thorough examination of its content and implications. It was extremely difficult for me to move from being assertive and confident to restrained and tight-lipped. I hated it, but it was a learning experience.
Eventually, I struck a happy medium. Let’s face it, I could not just flip a switch and turn off outgoing and turn on reticence. You are what you are and it is what it is. But I did learn that even after you retire and think you are free of all restraints and rules, you are not. You need to keep honing those communication and people skills because if you don’t, you will be judged and labeled an “old fart” who thinks she can say anything she wants to anyone around and get away with it. I’m not quite ready to be labeled an old fart so I guess I have to keep working – without a paycheck – but with the feeling of fulfillment that comes from using your head for something other than a footrest.