I have been focusing on my academic work now that my clinical work is slowing down a bit. I had eye surgery recently, recovering well but still not up to the level that I feel is safe for my operative work, thus I am teaching more and operating less. The safety of my patients is my priority which is why I will take the time to recover fully before heading back into the operating theatre.
As I sat in a meeting with non-medical colleagues (academics), I unexpected found myself disagreeing with one of the meeting participants. This particular person was an administrator who began to question my motives for disagreeing with him. In all truth, I have no motives other than advocating for students in my agreement or disagreement in a meeting. I stated my position and largely left it to the rest of the meeting participants to vote their beliefs.
The particular dean kept insisting that I was fearing the loss of sessions of a particular course in my division. The interesting part for me is that he probably wasn’t fully aware of my division because our students are in cohorts. We have to offer courses because our courses are required for individual programs. As I sat with a fake smile plastered on my face, I listened carefully to his argument and then to his opinion. While I love a great debate, I find little use in listening to opinions about his perception of my “thoughts” and personality. How could he possibly know my thoughts?
When his opinion deteriorated to an attack on my “attitude”, I simply said my favorite word, “whatever” and refused to become engaged. A couple of other meeting participants began to take up his attacks but still, I didn’t bite. Years of dealing with Mortality and Morbidity conferences in residency had taught me that silent listening and careful observation are the best means to counter these types of discussions. When another person begins to raise their voice, it may be a signal of passion but most of the time, it’s a symbol of frustration; neither can be fixed by me. In short, I don’t take anything personally.
I did find myself in tears when I left the meeting (blamed them sniffing on cold and allergies) but I allowed myself to get to my car before I openly wept. Why did I allow this to happen? Is there a more effective means of dealing with someone who is essentially a bully? By the time I arrived home, I questioned myself and began to believe all of the negative things that had been said earlier.
Finally, I sat in front of my computer, opened my e-mail and found a very joyous note from one of my friends. I immediately burst into laughter and decided that things “are what they are” and I just need to hold onto the good stuff and let the small stuff roll off. I mastered this lesson completely in residency but was caught off guard in academia. Needless to say, I am very grateful for my friends who are just gifts that I don’t deserve.