I like to think I’m pretty good at figuring out when I have offended people and am fairly willing to apologize immediately. My mouth often goes faster than my brain, so this happens enough that I feel like I can speak to how good I am at fixing it.
So when I encounter a situation where someone is being antagonistic to me, and I honestly cannot figure out why, I tend to think that there’s probably nothing I can do to change that situation (wow, I’m just abusing adverbs everywhere).
Thank G-d I have a pretty thick skin.
More often than I would like, I sit in academic, professional situations and watch posturing that I just can’t understand. Often these situations arise on power-relationship dynamics (men/women; profs/grad students; older/younger). Quite probably, insecurities I cannot even begin to understand are fueling them.
When “I’m smarter/better/older/whiter/male/younger/taller/female/educated-er than *you*” get in the ways of meaningful dialogue, learning, and just being humane to each other, it infuriates me. Sometimes I feel empowered to respond to these situations; other times, I sit back and let the jerk (let’s use our 5-year-old words) be a jerk. Jerkiness will out, G-dwilling.
At the end of the day, I really only have control over my own actions, appearance, and knowledge in any professional (or personal, or random, or ANY) situation. And if I come off as a jerk, that’s my own fault.
Don’t be a jerk.
Luckily, I have some brilliant academic role models I pull from. People who are willing to not be in the experts in the room at all times–who encourage the rest of us to step in where their knowledge may be lacking. I love them for pulling me through the days where the wangst (wank-angst) gets to be too much.