Saturday, 3 March 2007

Tact vs guile

My father is without guile. He rarely calculates the effect of things he says before saying them. He has a brother and a sister, both of whom are rather difficult individuals. Recently he told his sister that he thought her very like their brother, offending her hugely because she's well aware how difficult said brother is. Later he passed on to his brother how offended their sister had been at being compared to him -- which of course offended the brother too. Having cheerfully annoyed both of them he has now gone off plant-hunting in Vietnam; he's always been rather more comfortable in the company of trees than people. My aunt and uncle need their heads banging together -- they are currently engaged in a ghastly squabble over the effects of their recently deceased mother -- so a dose of see-yourselves-as-others-see-you might have done them some good.

Of course he embarrassed me to death when I was a teenager, but my dad's cheerful tactlessness is actually rather refreshing when compared to the environment I spend a lot of time in at work. We have big meetings where most of those talking are contemporaries of my father, if not a bit older, and I'm fed up with trying to second guess what's going on. I'd bet that most of them are acting out of principle, or think they are, but you end up constantly questioning -- what is this man's motivation? -- what is he getting at with that snide comment? -- can I take what he says at face value or does he have some obscure aim? (They are almost all men.) We are destroying the trust which a community needs. So hurray for cheerful and honest loonies like my dad. I hope he's having a good time in Asia communing with rhododendrons.

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