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Know when it is time to keep your mouth shut

As a youth, I don't remember ever having the right comeback when caught by surprise by a schoolmate making an antagonizing quip.  In high school, most of us were mising a lightning quick wit, and thus were subjected to indefensible attacks from those few who did.  A time did come however, when I did develop a quick wit, and the ability to stun an antagonist with lightning fast remark.  It is a well known fact that working in a steel mill can be compared to being in the 8th grade for life.  There is something about heavy industry that can bring the juvenile idiot out of each of us.

In this world of never ending immaturity and adolescent humor; quips and zingers zip about at times like speeding electrons.  It is always fun, until someone loses an eye.  The problem I have experienced is that observers in the periphery can at time take great offense to the ping-pong like banter that results from a pair of us dueling it out with sharp remarks, all meant in good fun.  While concentrating on returning fire, it is difficult to realize when you are offending someone else inadvertently.  When you offend coworkers in this way, they can often form poor impressions of you that will affect the ability to work together in the future. 

About six years ago, after a department meeting, a friend (coworker) of mine was having a conversation with our manager about a solution to a problem.  While listening to them, I was becoming more and more amused as their analysis of a situation that bordered on the inane.  The discussion was getting so silly that I looked at both of them and asked, " Did either of you actually attend engineering school?" A coworker of ours, who had a sensitivity about not being a college graduate took offense to the remark.  Our manager and my friend thought my comment was humorous, not necessarily amusing, while to our coworker it reinforced his perception of the arrogance of engineers in our workplace.  I wasn't necessarily trying to be arrogant, but the perception stuck, and it was another nail in the coffin that personified my relationship with that coworker.
I'm the horse's ass in the middle
In my current position, I have a comical relationship with a fellow supervisor.  Sometimes during informal morning meetings we find ourselves going back and forth in a stupid battle of wits that may amuse some on a superficial level but annoys others on deeper levels.  Most of the time I catch myself only after saying enough immature remarks that places yet another brick in the wall of poor perception.  Thank goodness, this only happens about every two weeks when the shift schedule has him working nights, leaving him particularly salty in the morning meetings.

The moral of the story is . . . .while you are having fun, making funny jokes, witty remarks, and being the center of attention, you aren't realizing that there are other people in the room that aren't enjoying the show.  While performing, it is impossible to pay attention to both of these far reaches of the spectrum.  When all energy is being used to be funny, less and less is usually spent on perceiving the minority negative reactions.


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