Mitigation. It’s important. And it’s not always easy to do. A case in point:
Picture this. Last week, my 10-year-old son, Tano, and I were in Target. I am not a recreational shopper. I was there to get something specific and go. He wanted to check out the toy section. Mitigation: “Tano, I want to be clear that I am not buying any toys. You may look, but I am not buying a toy today.” He agreed. That went well. Usually does. Good kid. And so I clomped over to the toys, shoppers scattering out of my way (wield a cane and all of a sudden, you’re afforded some serious personal space!). And there I found him. Enraptured. And there I was. Exhausted. I could see the bargaining and scheming going on beneath his Dodger-blue Mohawk; I figured on a plea to use his future earnings to pay me back. And so, once again, I turned to my friend mitigation, figuring I’d nip it in the bud and not even entertain the argument: “Tano, I am Never going to buy that. We are leaving now.”
Well, you should know that we have rules in our house about not saying certain words – dumb, stupid, hate, and Never are among them. So, when I said Never (with a capital N), I was BUSTED! And he jumped right on it, gleefully wagging his finger at me in the busy Target toy aisle and saying at the top of his lungs “Oooh! Mom! You just said the N-word.” If I’d thought the aisles cleared because of my cane, you should have seen the giant step back at that! And with that I forgot all about being sick and thought I might just die of embarrassment instead.
I told that story last night at a church “mindful parenting” group (which I attended thinking maybe I should brush up a bit). It got a laugh, but it also got me thinking about how hard it is to mitigate, to anticipate, to fix it before it’s broken. And that brought to mind all of you and how impressive and admirable it is that you succeed in such big ways in doing what I failed at in even the smallest circumstance. It also made me think about perspective and how if I’d put myself in Tano’s shoes and thought through what I was about to say as well as how it would sound to him, I might have avoided nearly mortal mortification.
And so, I share with you some advice from the last night’s event (because family dynamics do have a lot in common with workplace relationships). “Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s [co-workers’, employees’, boss’, etc.] point of view; imagine having you as a parent [manager, etc.] today, in this moment. How might you modify how you carry yourself, how you speak, what you say?” Good advice, because really, we reap what we sow. In my case, I sowed the seed that sprouted the vocabulary police. And I’ll Never say Never again, I promise!
DRI International Director of Communications