Yesterday I received an email from one of the directors of the rescue for which I volunteer. I was told that people perceive me a lot differently than I thought they did. In a nutshell, I either come across as condescending or I over-share, making people uncomfortable. While at first I was very upset and hurt, a days time has given me a little more perspective on the issue. I also spoke with a couple of people, including a native Alabamian and it's really given me a lot to think about.

I knew when we moved to Alabama that there would be a bit of culture shock, for both of us. I thought I'd handle it better than Will, since I've lived in the south before. I thought I "spoke Southern" because I easily slip into the accent, know most of the slang and am pretty darn friendly in the first place. Apparently, I don't speak southern at all.

Many of you know me or have at least met me in person. Those of you that haven't met me in person have at least interacted with me online for a good amount of years. You're used to how I talk/write. In thinking over all this, I've come to the conclusion that there has been a serious culture clash between me and many of the folks I've interacted with on behalf of the rescue.

To Yankees, it's NORMAL to talk over each other in a conversation. There's a fine line between talking-over and rudely interrupting, but we know that line. It's just how we are. I'm sure that if any of my southern friends were to listen to a conversation between me and say, Tracy, they'd probably wonder how we ever manage to get our point across. Add to that my natural speech cadence. I don't have a Noo Yawk accent; never have. Even when I slip into a southern drawl, the rhythm of my speech is very different. Heck, ask my NY friends and they'll tell you I don't sound like them either. I was raised in an European household. My mother was Brasilian; English was her second language (one of five she spoke). My father was born in California but raised all over the world, and spent most of his formative years in Swiss boarding schools. He also spoke multiple languages. So, the English I learned at home was "proper" -- the kind of English that non-native speakers speak. Diction, proper grammar, a rather extensive vocabulary, etc. This is NORMAL to me and I don't change it unless I'm speaking to a child that hasn't learned many words yet, or to someone that doesn't speak much English. (Or my dogs LOL) I don't make any assumption about another party I'm speaking with. To change how I speak because I assume the other party won't understand -- to me, that's talking to people like they're stupid. But, apparently I come across like one of those "blue-state elitists" that were in the news during the last election. Add to that my occasional brain fog, where I forget even the simplest of words and I'm sure people think I'm trying to talk like a walking dictionary.

Once upon a time, I WAS a walking dictionary, but no longer. However, I digress....

Then there's what Will calls my "lecture mode". I admit that I can get pretty passionate about some topics that interest me or I'm knowledgeable about. I enjoy sharing ideas and having discussions about certain topics. I typically "hold court". I'm aware of this, but thought people WANTED to hear what I was talking about. I'd never realized it was annoying.

Then there's the fact that for many years, my career and pagan outreach work required me to speak and write with a certain degree of professionalism. It becomes ingrained. I certainly don't mean to come across as brusque or rude, but my writing is meant to be concise and to the point. I don't bother with a lot of idle chit-chat when I write an email or letter (unless I'm ACTUALLY CHATTING). When I'm in a position where I have to interact with the public on behalf of an organization, I do so in a courteous and professional manner. I never considered that this could be taken any other way.

My Alabamian friend told me that she thinks it's culture clash. That more than likely, people perceive me as looking down on them when I'm just being myself. I guess I'm just another one of those "damned Yankees" who thinks she's better than everyone else.

It's not the truth; but the perception is there. And enough people were put off by it that I've been asked to step back from some of the things I was doing for the rescue.

And...I'm OK with that. It hurt at first, I won't deny that. But I also know that I'm a good and decent person that doesn't judge others based on how they dress, speak, write or anything else like that. I judge them based on their actions. However, others DO judge people on those very things, and I don't want the rescue to be damaged because of my personality quirks. So, I'm stepping back from certain operations but keeping up with others. Maybe those same personality quirks can be put to good use: in doing things that require a less casual mode of communication.

I'm posting this publicly so feel free to chime in. My ego can take it. But, know that I never meant to offend anyone. Now that it's been brought to my attention, I can try and be more aware of it. I doubt I'll be changing all that much; after all, it's taken me 43 years to be who I am and I kind of like me. I will, however, do my best to be more aware of it.


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