Hokey Hokey Pokey

Put your left foot in, take your left foot out, put your left foot in, and shake it all about, you do the hokey pokey, and turn yourself around, and that’s what it’s all about..

Songwriters: Charles Macak / Larry Laprise / Taft Baker

“What on earth is she on about”? you may ask. Well, although the song is well known and quite catchy (yeah, try getting that one out of your head for the day!), it’s the part about putting your ‘foot in’ that I find myself pondering about today.

The Macmillian dictionary defines the action of putting your foot in it as “…to accidentally say something that is embarrassing or that upsets or annoys someone…”. It happens sometimes, even to the most famous of people and sometimes it really is an innocent little slip of the tongue.

Sometimes though, the foot is big and nasty and it destroys relationships. I learnt recently that apparently, it’s common knowledge that intention doesn’t really matter when someone’s hurting over a comment or more specifically, a foot in the mouth scenario. Doesn’t matter that the owner of the foot did not intend the impact of the hurt or did not know that the other person would take offense. Hurt is hurt. It doesn’t feel good. It destroys.

Apology is sometimes all that repairs. Honest, heartfelt in your gut apology.

This, unintentional “foot in it” scenario really caught me unawares recently. It forced me to pause. Reflect. Ponder.

We know we work and do life in diverse environments with people from all walks of life. There are obvious differences like culture, heritage, background, language proficiency, country of origin and various orientations.

There are also less obvious and more subtle differences. Consider sense of humor for instance. Some like slapstick comedy, others a more dark version of humor and I’m pretty sure there are those that just don’t appreciate humor at all.

How would we know if our particular personality, or sense of humor in this instance could possibly offend or hurt someone else? What would be our indicator that our environment is tuned in to us? That we are able to just be ourselves, laugh together, share together and talk together without the proverbial foot entering the mouth?

This is a big dilemma for me now and one that’s really bugged me lately. More because I can’t seem to settle it in my head – it’s lingering need for answers and solution.

In her book “The Happiness Track” Emma Seppala (Science Director: Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research – Stanford Uni) reflects on how we, as humans, are wired to read each other’s minds. She talks confidently about resonance, unconscious processing and, believe it or not, gut feeling.

The experiences of recent years and months and a strong need to make sense of it all have agitated me sufficiently to the point that I am now powering through Emma’s book. I have much to learn about resonance and unconscious processing.

Not so much about gut feeling though.

I trust mine but I sometimes silence that little voice (you know the one I’m talking about, right?).

Today I made it a promise. Never ever will I silence that little voice that stems from my gut and loudly shouts "ABORT ABORT" again. It is now my official gauge to indicate the possibility of a“foot in mouth scenario” looming.

I’ll let you know what I find out about all the other good stuff Emma talks about though.

If only to assist us in keeping the proverbial foot out of the mouth.

Ahhh hokey hokey pokey…

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