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Opinion Editorials

I Sound Like an Idiot, Even When I Don’t Mean To…

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idiotjester


Has it happened to you?

I only recall one saying that my father ever said, and it tends to come up more often in my life, than not. “Son, don’t let your alligator mouth over-ride your mosquito butt…” I tend to realize that I’ve said something inappropriate after it’s already out there. I’ve recently received a phone call from someone that I’ve respected from afar for awhile and have never intended any nefarious word or thought. However, unintentionally I have offended them.

It’s not them, it’s you!

In my less mature days I would simply say this was the other person’s problem, but now I try to look at all sides. In this case it had to do with some things I had written. When 70% of communication is body language, it only makes sense that in this fast paced, often negative world of blogging, we tend to lose sight of the fact that our opinions may come across despicable and not of our intended purpose. We’re opinionated – all of us. It’s a difficult balance to write or comment in a reasonable length that isn’t overly burdensome to the reader, yet truly reflect your intent.

Plea for kindness…

I’ve written often about the need for civility in the blogosphere. Not always is it possible to write an article without picking a side. Even the mainstream media can’t seem to deliver news without telling you what to think. However, it was a good lesson for me to remember that when I write comments or posts, I need to be more cognizant of what the reader may be “hearing” and not necessarily what I was saying.

Can I be neutral?

Being neutral and still commenting on a post or writing one of my own is near to impossible. I think that most people do read blogs to garner information, but some also want to know what you think when you’re writing. I’ve tried to just deliver information, but the mere fact that I am writing about it means that it sparked some emotion or interest. Being direct maybe a better option. I find that the times I get misunderstood, is when I am trying to point out both sides of an issue. (not that the issue that spawned this post was a neutral statement, I was just being an idiot and didn’t see how others might understand my comments)

My point?

I don’t really have a main point here, other than to ask that those who read my stuff feel free to e-mail me and ask what the heck I meant if you feel offended. (phone call might be better) If I intended to offend you… I won’t hesitate to get a cheesy grin and tell you to get over it; but typically I didn’t intend to offend.

For the writers out there, make double sure, before you hit submit that your message is exactly what everyone else would understand it to be and that it’s consistent with other comments that you’ve made in the past.

We could all do a bit better at communicating with others a keeping our target audience in mind.

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Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. monika

    March 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I usually agonize before I hit submit….probably far more than I should.

  2. Missy Caulk

    March 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Matthew, sometimes is is difficult when you can’t see the person and hear the tones. If I say something that might be taken wrong, I try to say LOL or explain.

  3. John Lauber

    March 30, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    So true Matt. It’s been that way with email too. You always need to re-read something, especially if it’s a “heat of the moment” or emotional type of response. There never was a great way to rescind an email. It’s true of comments and posts too.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    March 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Monika – I’m with you. I spend too much time reading, but I do so for grammar and content and not enough for effect.

    Missy – Yeah, I wasn’t really a big “smiley face” person at first, but I found that 🙂 can make it all better.

    John – yep, can’t rescind an e-mail…. occasionally I can modify a bad post. Never been able to recant a comment….

  5. Bill Lublin

    March 30, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Matthew- as long as you are aware, you minimize the impact of a hasty post – and the smilies are a great cure – there is such a narrow psychological bandwidth to written communication like this and emails, that the greater sensitivty you show in your post is our best friend- And making sure we talk about what we “know” and not what we “think” when we make absolue statements – but I am sure that a 🙂 beats a :-p everytime!

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 30, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    @Bill – you’re quickly becoming my fav commentor. Always great to get your insight! Thanks for hanging out here!

  7. Judy Orr

    March 31, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I’ve also noticed that it’s obvious that some people that read posts or e-mails simply don’t read them fully or correctly. Then they form a quick opinion on their erroneous interpretation of the post or e-mail and it’s obvious by their response. I see this a lot on blog post comments.

    I’ll read a reply and go back and re-read the post and think, “What was that guy reading?”

    I sent a guy (referred by a friend) an e-mail explaining nicely how I couldn’t find anything in his price range and though it was doubtful anything would come up I’ll keep searching (an automated search). He replied back that he was sorry he was wasting my time and maybe he should find someone else who would be more willing to help him. He was pissed! And I was very nice, even though there was nothing in his price range in the area he wanted and there wouldn’t be unless it was a tear-down. I had to explain this to my friend so she wouldn’t think I was being a jerk.

  8. Colorado Home Loan

    March 31, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I wish people would learn the skill of not being easily offended. It’s a waste of energy to spend time being offended. I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog post that offended me. It’s just real estate stuff, after all.

  9. Lane Bailey

    April 3, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    As one that usually finds lines not to be crossed by looking behind me… I understand. It is tough in an online world to get across exactly what we mean, rather than the worst case scenario.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much.

  10. Sue

    April 18, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Its hard to know how you will come across and accurately be represented. Many times people can take things the wrong way as they cannot see our facial or any other expressions or mannerisms. Thats probably why the “expression” symbols were implemented to help that along a little. 🙂

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Opinion Editorials

Dispelling the myth that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask

(EDITORIAL) It has been accepted as fact that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask as often as men, but new studies indicate that’s not true at all.

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Many of the seemingly universal “truths” of business often come down to assumptions made about workers based on their gender.

Among the most oft-repeated of these “truths” is that women and other femme-identifying people are bad at self-advocating, particularly in matters involving compensation.

These include: Women don’t negotiate their salaries. Women don’t get promotions or leadership positions because they don’t “lean in.” Women don’t ask for raises.

This last truth is finally being discussed as the myth it is.

Over at The Cut, Otegha Uwagba discusses her own experience successfully and not-so-successfully negotiating a raise, but more interestingly how increasingly research has shown that there is no “gap” in between the genders when it comes to asking. Rather, the disparity really arises when it comes to which ask is heard.

As Uwagba explains, “While men and women ask for pay raises at broadly similar rates, women are more likely to be refused or suffer blowback for daring to broach the topic.”

This blowback comes from the inability of some people in leadership positions to think critically about the ways in which business still actively dismisses women’s leadership qualities while simultaneously praising less-competent men who demonstrate these very characteristics.

The HBR article acts as good reminder that the cumulative effect of all of these misguided “facts” about women and business often perpetuate the toxic culture that creates and circulates them.

The implication of all of these myths creates a sense that women are the ones responsible for the unequal treatment they often receive. When the message that women receive is that the reason they don’t get a raise is that they didn’t ask—even when they DO—that tells them that their lived experience isn’t as valid as the pervasive “truth.”

This is, simply put, gaslighting.

Even more, telling women that women face challenges because they didn’t do something or know something, rather than the addressing the very real fact that professional women face sexism at almost every step of their career does not help them.

It only helps those already in positions of power blame women for their own archaic beliefs and actions.

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Opinion Editorials

Funny females are less likely to be promoted

(CAREER) Science says that the funnier a female, the less likely she is to be promoted. Uhh…

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Faceless keyboard warriors around the world have been — incorrectly — lamenting that women just aren’t funny for years now (remember the “Ghostbusters” remake backlash?).The good news is they are obviously wrong. The bad news? When women dare to reveal their comedic side in the workplace they are often perceived as “disruptive” while men are rewarded.

That’s right. Women not only have to worry about being constantly interrupted, receiving raises less frequently than men despite asking for them equally as often, and still making nearly $10,000 less than men each year, but now they have to worry about being too funny at the office.

A recent University of Arizona study asked more than 300 people to read the fictional resume of a clothing store manager with the gender-neutral name “Sam” and watch a video presentation featuring Sam. The videos came in four versions: a serious male speaker, a humorous male speaker, a serious female speaker and a humorous female speaker.

According to the researchers, “humorous males are ascribed higher status compared with nonhumorous males, while humorous females are ascribed lower status compared with nonhumorous females.” Translation: Male workers earn respect for being funny while their funny female coworkers are often seen in a more negative light.

There are, of course, several reasons this could be the case. The researchers behind this particular study pointed to the stereotype that women are more dedicated to their families than their work, and being perceived as humorous could convey the sense they don’t take their work as seriously as men.

Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon offered another take, putting the blame directly on Sam the clothing store manager, calling out their seemingly narcissistic behavior and how society’s tolerance for such behavior is “distinctly gender-based.” She says these biases go back to the social programming of our childhoods and the roles mothers and fathers tend to play in our upbringing.

So what are women supposed to do with this information?

Gourgechon’s status quo advice includes telling women to not stop being funny, but “to be aware of the the feelings and subjectivities of the people around you.” While recommending an empathetic stance isn’t necessarily bad advice, it still puts the onus on women to change their behavior, worry about what everyone else thinks and attempt to please everyone around them.

We already know that professional women can have an extremely hard time remaining true to themselves in the workplace — especially women in the tech industry — and authenticity is often a privilege saved for those who conform to the accepted culture. We obviously still have a long way to go before women stop being “punished” for being funny at work, but things seem to be progressing, however slowly.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama shared her thoughts last year on the improvements that have been made and the changes that still need to happen, including encouraging men to step up and do their part. In the wake of the #metoo movement, CNBC recommended five things men can do to support women at work. There are amazing women in STEM positions around the world we can all admire and shine a spotlight on.

All of these steps — both big and small — will continue to chip away at the gender inequality that permeates today’s workplaces. And perhaps one day in the near future, female clothing store manager Sam will be allowed to be just as funny as male clothing store manager Sam.

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Opinion Editorials

Two common business myths that could get you sued

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors:

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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