Parental

by Lori Hoeck on May 31, 2009

“I’m sure you don’t want to do that,” he said. “It really wouldn’t be helpful to the company.”

The parental tone rang subtle, but commanding, from a superior to a subordinate. But this time the fatherly smile he put on his face like makeup didn’t ring as true.

Damn, she thought, this was going to be a long discussion.

Well, not discussion. He rarely let others listen or get a word in edgewise.

As her immediate boss in the company’s marketing department, he was automatically dealt the better and upper hand, and damn if he didn’t know how to use it to his best advantage.

She knew it would fall on deaf ears, but she had to say it anyway. “Actually I was trying to help the company with this new online idea.”

“Sarah,” he always used her name when he felt threatened and insecure, “you know what I’ve said about this. I love that you have enthusiasm and want to help, but I’ve been down this road before, and it never works.”

With hardly a pause he continued, “When I first joined this company, I took pride in how it stood on solid standards and ideas. We’ve never wavered from those. To do something new just to do something new is not good business.”

“But I’ve seen this work elsewhere with great success. I read an article in the main trade magazine that backs up how well it can help us.”

“Have I ever steered you wrong, Sarah?”

There it was — his switch-up in the conversation to avoid having to listen to her defend her ideas.

And what other reply did she have for the person who approved her paycheck? With the smallest of sighs, she bit off the word, “No.”

“Well then, you know I mean what I say when I’ve tried things like this before. When I first headed up sales, a man by the name of Jack Johnson came up with something similar …”

At that point her nods came diligently, but her mind ran long and hard from this twice-heard story he used to prove to the world why “things are they way they are and are going to stay that way.”

Each of his hand gestures and well-rehearsed emotional stage play weighted down her heart and shoulders. Why did I stick around for more of this? I left home years ago. I don’t need a Daddy-figure or school principal to keep make me feel like I don’t measure up so I keep trying harder to please.

Her self-loathing jumped a notch, but never bubbled up to her face. She’d learned a long time ago to peer through well-made masks. Otherwise, the conversations grew longer.

Somewhere inside her, as the drone of words played on, a sharp blade cut into her, slicing something old and moldy from her mind. The once quiet and dead-still inner sea moved as if whipped by a strong wind. Waves slowly rolled higher and higher as long-held indignation roared across the seascape.

With a new clarity crashing against the shore of her selfhood, she naturally sat up taller in her chair. The new body language commanded notice.

Sarah heard his words trail off as he noticed the change. His kind spent a lifetime controlling the small and large things of power.

She now she noticed them, too.

Leaping into the gap between the torrents of words, she said, “I understand your vast experience with this company carries a lot of weight for you, but I see stories like these as unhelpful. I value quality, standards, and making this company great, too, and those things don’t disappear when innovation and new ideas are tried.”

Before he could summon another gush of words, she plodded on.

“There is no harm in my suggestion. I’m the one taking the responsibility here. I’m willing to try it and if it fails, then I’m the one who fails. I’m not cowed by other people’s past attempts. Sure maybe they did fail, but maybe they just didn’t have the abilities I do. I own my successes and my failures, and I won’t let Jack’s story be a gravestone to innovation or to my creativity.”

Standing up, she added, “If you want to back me on my idea, fine. If not, there’s nothing more to say.”

Turning to leave, a power and a freedom raced through her body, a feeling that had eluded her a long time. Smiling broadly, she realized no one would take a parental role over her again.

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For information on emotional self defense and how to deal with such controlling parental figures, visit my other website, Think Like a Black Belt — especially this short article: “Defense Against the Dark Hearts.”

Thank you for visiting,
Lori Hoeck

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