Let’s play Spot the Elephant!

If you are foolish enough to be contented, don’t show it, but grumble with the rest – Jerome K Jerome

Elephant in the room 3


This image is courtesy of David Blackwell.

This quote speaks to me today because I have witnessed it in a couple of different ways this week. Yesterday at work I wrote an email to a colleague pointing out a mistake in a description in one of our products on the computer. They call me the ‘spelling Nazi‘ at work – sorry if I offend anyone by that term, I seem to hear it more and more these days, and yes I have had typos in my blogs and grammatical errors from time to time.

Anyway, I sometimes feel like I am the messenger that might be shot if I speak up with family and at work, unless I am being asked to proofread, which I often am at work, quite unrelated to my actual role. This lovely colleague admitted that she feels like that also, constantly pointing out errors to our head office overseas as they are the only ones who can fix them for us. It would be so much easier to ignore things. No can of worms to open. No risk. But I can’t. I suspect I irritate people, or maybe I just notice the looks on their faces and imagine things which aren’t there. (Back to the best ever quote; ‘We see things are we are, not as they are’ – Anais Nin).

Anyway I digress. There are times we need to go along with the grumblers, even though sometimes we know that they are not actually unhappy or grumbling themselves but ‘playing the game’. We pretend that there is such a thing as sod’s law and have not named the opposite, which I shall call Emma’s Law – where lots of awesome things fall into our laps without trying, such as being able to click on a link and people working away behind the scenes to find cures for things, design new things, share out of the goodness of their heart, share knowledge free on the internet, blog etc. Why don’t people want to bond over the good stuff? For the record, bread does not always fall buttered side down, it just rotates due to the laws of physics and depending on the height from which it was dropped, it will always land a certain way.

Off track again. Just now on my morning run a stranger passed and we smiled. I said ‘Lovely temperature’ and he said he found it cold. I said he’d better move faster then, and off we went. No grumbling for me.

Do you often see the elephant in the room?

Elephant in the room 2

Do you stand up for causes? I thought I didn’t.  You will not find me marching for anything! And yet I realise I do speak up, a lot. Perhaps more now that I am older and care less what others think. Obviously I don’t want to lose my job and I must feel safe enough to open my mouth (see this link for a brilliant Summary of the book Crucial Conversations) but I seem to do so more and more. I thank those that make me feel safe for doing so.

So who do we feel safe to share our contentment with? Our loved ones, best friends, strangers? How wide is your circle of contentment? We all know who is more likely to favour a shared bonding grumble with us, than a Pollyanna chat. I think some people draw the bad stuff out of me, because I know they will thoroughly enjoy a gossip or complaint about yet another stuff up by whoever. I feel disappointed in myself when I cave.

Oops, I seem to be contradicting myself here. Do I or don’t I want to point out the things I see? By writing this post I realise (and that was the point of starting this blog, to learn by exploring the words of the ‘Masters’) that the ‘grumbling’ or pointing out what’s wrong, should only be directed, politely and objectively, at those who can fix it. Otherwise, keep it to yourself!

No grumbling


4 thoughts on “Let’s play Spot the Elephant!

  1. We’re two peas in a pod, Emma. I always point out the elephant. I’ve tried not to lately as It doesn’t make a person popular, but it just seems to pop out…But as you quoted at the end, there are people who simply can’t see the wood for the trees, and so I do keep quiet when I know someone wouldn’t know how to fix their attitudes.

    • That’s a real skill, that ‘keeping quiet’ Yaz. One I haven’t mastered. And I seem to see many who don’t know how to fix their attitudes. I am having to relearn to love being silent around others. My boyfriend and I have silent dates – it’s quite a special thing. Not one word or even sign language. Just smiles and hugs for a couple of hours.

  2. Hi Emma — I think we are trained very early to look for what isn’t right with something — anything. So it’s a “normal” way to see life from the standpoint of our culture. I have had to train myself to look for the things that are “right” first. It has not been easy. Something about taking the log out of my own eye before pointing to the speck in my neighbors? Yes. Folks don’t like that unsolicited. Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it. My circle of contentment is fairly large, I would say — and especially now that I have extended myself into the WordPress community. Blessings and hugs, alia

    • The WordPress community is special! You’re quite right – we are trained to improve things, which means looking for what needs improving. Someone pointed out to me years ago that I couldn’t just say a trip etc was fantastic – I always felt the need to point any negatives. Always learning….. I guess I choose my ‘battles’ a little more carefully now. Thanks and hugs back

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