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Right speech, awkward conversations and fitting in

nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

Recently I started a new job. I'm doing the actual work fairly well, but I think management is concerned that I'm not 'bonding' with the team. I don't fear for my job in the short term - they are also having some personnel issues at the moment. The problem is that awkward conversations frequently come up in the office when there's no work and people start talking. I'm in the American South, and frequent topics are guns, race relations (from a very conservative viewpoint), politics in general, et al. Rather than proffer my viewpoint, I simply clam up and let them continue. Personally, it seems I'm a 'social democrat' (thanks Wikipedia) with a decidedly liberal outlook so there's just a bit of difference in opinions. In one-on-one situations or very small groups, I can steer the conversation to other topics or say something non-committal but in a large group I just have to sit there looking stupid.

So am I being cowardly for not boldly stating my political position, or is this an exercise of right speech? I don't like confrontations and I also want to keep my job, but it feels wrong and awkward to just sit silent like a lump.

Comments

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited October 25

    That's a really good question.

    I know me - and what I'd do is adopt a pov that is closer to what the co-workers are.
    You don't have to talk much IF you talk enough - just enough so that they don't think you're some anal, tight-lipped you know what, heh. I don't see anything wrong with that.

    If you have other job opportunities, I don't know if it would make a lot of difference, so that's why I think it's worth it to compromise your viewpoint and social style so that you are reasonably comfortable and you're okay with them. It's not much to go on, but it's all I have.

    Plus, you never know - you could meet a couple of people who are relieved they're not the only ones who don't 'fit in'. It could happen.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    I am definitely not the embodiment of Right Speech.
    But I have also learnt that when people are committeed to misunderstanding you and not liking you, anything you say can be misconstrued to provide the perfect excuse.
    There is no easy way to peacefully deal with narrow-minded people.
    The mere fact of holding a different viewpoint will be a call for confrontation to them.
    Even worse if we are talking politics or religious beliefs.

    I deeply hope other topics of conversation arise when you are with your co-workers, @nakazcid, in which you feel more confident to participate and help people know you a bit better.
    Otherwise, well, you could just pass off as a shy person.

    You are not being cowardly.
    You are just avoiding conflicts.

    dhammachick
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think what you’re doing in small groups - steering the conversation, starting different topics, saying non-comittal things - is on the right track. The key to bonding is saying things in which other people recognise themselves, so perhaps talking about local sports teams or how you relate to elderly relatives may be an in. I would look to make allies and friends out of those people who do respond.

    In larger groups being the “quiet one” is not necessarily a bad thing, and if I was management there I wouldn’t be so concerned with it as to fire someone over it. As long as you’re connecting well to a few people it should look like you’re fitting in fine.

    I don’t think it’s cowardly at all to avoid offering your deepest thoughts on politics, in that kind of group I’d probably do much the same as you.

    lobsterkarasti
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @DhammaDragon said:

    You are not being cowardly.
    You are just avoiding conflicts.

    Absolutely correct. I'm doing the very same thing at this workplace. After the experience I had at the last place, I am very hesitant to get involved in any discussion that is vaguely political or controversial.
    _ /\ _

    BunksDhammaDragonHozan
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    It's interesting that management would note such discussions happen and work and allow them to continue. Political, religious, and other such topics are highly discouraged from discussion during work time here and usually shut down by management. But most places I've worked have had a customer interaction component and no job place wants to risk losing customers at overhearing employee conversations about such things.

    It is a hard place to be in, but I don't see anything wrong with what you are doing. Sometimes boats need rocking, but not when you need your job. If management were to ever ask you why you don't engage in large groups, just tell them you are more of an introvert and like to observe in those situations. It wouldn't be an unusual response. There's nothing wrong with functioning better in smaller groups.

    What makes you think management is concerned about your bonding? Are they actually suggesting as such or is it just a fear on your part that doesn't have much basis? I ask because my mind runs away with things like that and almost always my anticipation of what they think is way off course.

    dhammachick
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Well said, @mindatrisk. Great reminder.

  • but it feels wrong and awkward to just sit silent like a lump.

    It does? Sounds like my meditation practice at times. ;)
    I too feel @mindatrisk offered pertinent advice but can we turn the wrong and awkward into a practice opportunity?

    @mindatrisk said:
    Have confidence in kindness and your own goodness.

    COD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Not the Buddha

    DhammaDragon
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    I thought I'd post a follow up to this topic. Fortunately, things are looking up. I'm out of training and flying solo nights and weekends (rotating shift, ugh.) Obviously, if there's no one around, no awkward topics come up. But even when people are present, getting along with them has become easier. For some reason, the gatherings have been smaller lately and it's easier to manage the conversation.

    Management has since publicly stated that discussions of politics are not allowed after a rather awkward and testy departmental meeting (I'm not the only liberal, and he's much more vociferous than I am.) However, everyone ignores that directive unless management is present. Nonetheless, I've so far managed to negotiate the minefield. I don't think anyone realizes I'm a liberal, though the fellow I mentioned above may have a clue.

    Thanks for the suggestions and support. I don't feel like a spineless coward now.

    silver
  • @nakazcid said:
    I thought I'd post a follow up to this topic. Fortunately, things are looking up. I'm out of training and flying solo nights and weekends (rotating shift, ugh.) Obviously, if there's no one around, no awkward topics come up. But even when people are present, getting along with them has become easier. For some reason, the gatherings have been smaller lately and it's easier to manage the conversation.

    Management has since publicly stated that discussions of politics are not allowed after a rather awkward and testy departmental meeting (I'm not the only liberal, and he's much more vociferous than I am.) However, everyone ignores that directive unless management is present. Nonetheless, I've so far managed to negotiate the minefield. I don't think anyone realizes I'm a liberal, though the fellow I mentioned above may have a clue.

    Thanks for the suggestions and support. I don't feel like a spineless coward now.

    I get bored very, very easily in mundane conversations so I've become quite adept at taking them 'deep'. It doesn't have to be Buddhism, it could be whether alien life exists, or if there are other colours in other dimensions... whatever you want. But what I've learnt is that almost everyone loves these kinds of discussions, even if their normal appearance is superficial - which is really just their own desperate attempts to make sure they fit in by hiding everything they regard as potentially controversial about themselves.

    Which is also another important consideration... see their suffering, not what they present themselves as. Because they're all hurting. Some were bullied in school, some abused by family members, some with parents with cancer, some struggling with an addiction, some who've just found their partner has been cheating on them. You don't have to know the details of the suffering, but knowing that it is there in some form and holding that in your heart will dramatically change how you interact with them... much softer, much more concerned, and greatly liberated from your own suffering.

    lobsternakazcidKerome
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @mindatrisk That's a really good point about realizing that everyone is suffering, and that most people try to pretend that everything's perfect in their life. Things are actually a little different on this job. Despite the overtly conservative POV, most here have been surprisingly forthcoming about their personal lives. I'm not sure if you've seen some of my other posts, but I have had a lot of issues and traumas to deal with, recently and historically. I'm not sure I want to 'let it all hang out' with these people. That might endanger my job or invoke prejudices in others.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Veteran
    edited November 16

    You are not being a coward by not speaking up.
    My teacher (a Vajrayana monk/Geshe born in Tibet, living & teaching in our city) never argues with others. And if someone tries to argue with him, he looks at them gently and with kindness says "You may be right", or "I'll have to think about that".

    We are not here to "fix" how others think, but to observe OUR inner responses and fix those. And one of those fixes has to do with not arguing or trying to correct others. Says the lady who just tried to correct you. Yeah.

    It is very skillful of you to try to redirect the conversation onto other topics. This shows wisdom.

    As for your co-workers, we see what we are not yet ready to see ... and it is pointless to try to make someone see what they do not understand yet. It must be very frustrating for my teacher at times, to see how ignorant we - his students - are. But I doubt if he is bald because he goes home and tears his hair out in frustration.

    lobster
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