Apparently, the budget meetings for the fiscal year are not going easily. New Director is all spooky about Vice President. Its mid April, two months from when we ought to have a New President for the Whale. I reflect on the fondness so many staff seem to have for the avuncular yet quintessential executive alpha male, whom i find to be emblematic of leadership by the bottom line. My understanding is that the previous Whale president was something of a bully, laying blame, creating the culture i discovered. This is the culture of re-jiggering everything to report only good news, and if it's bad, you blame someone else.
I received my copy of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin last night, and read a good deal of it. The 1980 publication date is not only revealed by the cover's font choice but by the heavy gender awareness in the examples. Elgin is blunt, which is appropriate for her role as sensei in this martial art. You, the reader, must understand: there is this verbal violence going on. Presumably you've picked this up because you want to defend yourself. In some context, this verbal violence is a game (particularly the business conference room) and most of the combatants are not taking it personally. Just like the boxing ring changes assault and battery into a sport, the same behavior in other venues is abuse.
Elgin's not a social critic: she's explaining survival and defense techniques, not how to change the culture.
She classes types of interactions as types: blamer, placater, distractor, computer, and leveler. As i read through the examples, i can see the patterns from growing up and between my parents. (Oh, heavens, my parents!) But when i try to imagine the defensive moves, it just doesn't click. There was one about "if you really cared about promotion, you would do your reports on time." (If anyone has noticed the tags "monthly report is under procrastination" and "monthly report meltdown has occurred," they probably know timely reporting ain't my cuppa.)
The verbal judo (for the beginner) is apparently to address the presupposition in the first clause: the speaker is saying, "You don't care about promotion." You, to disarm this attack, should say something like, "When did you get the impression i don't care about promotion?" (In no way are you to move on to the "bait," the second part of the sentence.)
I guess i would naturally placate. I do care about promotion and i will try to do my report on time. But i don't think this would make me feel attacked. Part of me wants to think that's being honest and straight, but i can see the placating pattern there. Yet - i dunno. This judo seems really tricky. This is, of course, why i hate office politics.
As i think about it: Elgin refers to these as attacks, but many seem manipulative, not attacking.
I'm left with gratitude that early in our dating relationship Christine gently modeled good straight talk and identified any verbal games like the manipulative or verbal violence patterns i had learned at home.