Dear Amy: Working at home during the pandemic has given me a glimpse into how my wife conducts business.
She is often rude to her customers and co-workers, with a particularly annoying habit of loudly talking over them to try and gain the verbal upper hand. She also frequently battles with her boss instead of trying to work to mutually agreeable solutions.
I’ve tried to offer suggestions and techniques from my years of corporate experience but am waved off.
The company she works for is small, poorly run, and the level of professionalism is generally low, which is why I’m sure she wasn’t fired a long time ago. But who knows what the future holds? We need both of our incomes right now.
I’m at a loss about how to handle this when I see and hear these cringe-worthy mistakes.
Should I just keep my mouth shut?
She’s probably a year away from retirement and I doubt she’s going to change, but she’s always frustrated and crabby at the end of the day, and I know a large part of that is how she conducts herself.
—Jaw Dropped in Denver
Dear Jaw Dropped: I’m assuming that your wife’s behavior also surfaces during your domestic life. Is she rude to wait staff at restaurants, prickly toward medical personnel, or impatient and imperious when negotiating home repairs with service workers? Does she talk over you in an effort to get the upper hand in a conversation?
Perhaps you assumed that she would behave differently (as most of us do) when at work.
It reminds me that most of us show our best, most restrained and polite behavior at work, when dealing with co-workers and customers, and then come home and growl at our families. But all of us should work hard not to growl at all.
I agree with your perceptive assessment that your wife’s rude and unprofessional behavior is actually causing her to feel more frustrated and angry at the end of the day. That is because she is not actually “winning” at work. She cannot close out her work days with the memory of successful interactions and positive feedback. Instead she carries with her the vestiges of constant conflict. What a burden!
If challenged, she might agree to putting a mirror at her workstation, or having you videotape a typical call. Do so without comment. Watching her own face and body language, and hearing her rudeness might inspire her to behave differently.
Dear Amy: I am a middle-age woman who lives alone.
I have a beloved pet. I work from home.
Before the pandemic I had very limited interaction with the public, by choice, but did go out freely on errands and shopping trips.
I consider myself a very cordial and pleasant person when encountering people.
Since the pandemic, my exposure to the outside world is close to nil and I have developed a bizarre habit that worries me.
Where I always had the habit of talking to my sweet pet in an overly sweet type of “baby talk,” I have noticed that I have carried this over to everyday areas of my life, almost like a narrative of sorts: “Oh, I’m washing my face, Ohhhhh! And we don’t have a toweeeelll!’ ... in a sort of baby-pitched sing-song.
This happens often, throughout the day — a bizarre, high-pitched narration to punctuate different activities or to highlight different thoughts, decisions or items on TV.
I think I’m losing my mind. Have you ever heard of this, and how can I break this weird habit?
—Screw Loose in Lucedale
Dear Screw Loose: I shared your question with eight women who live alone (some of whom have pets, some who don’t), and every single one of them said that they basically narrate their days — aloud. Of the group, I was the only person who doesn’t do this, and I assume this is because I don’t live alone, and I get to narrate my thoughts to my readers.
I don’t think you are losing your mind. I think your mind has adapted to your situation, and so like Tom Hanks in “Castaway” (he personalized and talked to a volleyball!), you have found a way to actually stay sane.
I’ll be interested in hearing more from readers and will share their thoughts.
Dear Amy: So many people are conflicted about attending weddings. I was discussing a wedding invitation with a friend, and he said, “It is not an invitation ... it’s an invoice.”
Dear Joe: Ouch.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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