Watch Your Mouth

From time to time, there are moments when I hear someone say something that leaves me flabbergasted. Considering that I love to talk, I think I am more than willing to let most people slide when they pop off at the mouth and say something inaccurate, which happens to the best of us, or either say something wildly inappropriate.

I might be in tune with this a bit more than typical – since I started recording a podcast and I have the displeasure of analyzing everything I say over and over and over again, you become intimately aware of your verbal shortcomings. The way the recording process works is that Landon and I will sit down in the front room of my house and talk into our microphones for about 90 minutes, with the goal of having 45-50 minutes worth of audio worth presenting. As it currently stands, I do all the sound editing and mixing and as a result, I am the one who listens to that recording for what feels like an eternity. The truth is, I am averaging about one hour of mixing time for every ten minutes of finalized audio. Most of that time is spent cutting out ah’s, uhm’s, oddly long pauses, and the occasional conversation that goes down a rabbit-hole.

Since I am working with recorded audio, I have, to a certain extent, the ability to remove part of the conversation after the fact so that the fine folks who choose to listen to that conversation don’t have to fight through periods of absolute nonsensible drivel. I am painfully reminded as I do quality control checks on the recordings that I don’t have the ability to cut everything out. To point out a short example, in our last episode ‘Architects and Chefswhen we were talking about how the food you eat is influenced by the place you live, I was discussing my recent trip to Maine and how lobsters seem to have imprinted themselves on every part of that culture. To reinforce that point, I said the following sentence:

“So I was really trying to find out, … the role that lobster’s played in their society.”

Maybe at first pass, this sentence doesn’t seem all that crazy to you, but I am telling you that it drives me absolutely bonkers. I should have used the word “culture” instead of the word “society” because let’s be honest, lobsters don’t have a role in society … unless we are talking about some underwater lobster society because it’s not like they work down at the local bank. This gaff is now recorded and available for permanent ridicule, a new experience despite the fact I have this blog site and you can find no shortage of errors contained within almost every single post. The difference is that if something on this site really bothers me, I can easily fix it whereas, with the podcast, nothing is easily fixable unless the solution is “removal”.

Tripping over curb

There is a story that will ultimately make it into my rotation of stories, it might be too soon now, but we are working with a consultant who seems to relish the idea of antagonizing people who disagree with them (trying to keep the pronoun’s gender-neutral) … which just so happens to be the city engineers who are reviewing the drawings for one of our projects. We have sailed through every phase of the review process except for the scope of work of this particular consultant. We made it through building review in one pass and with only two comments – both of which were generic boilerplate notes the city wanted to see on the cover. No big whoop, right? Almost done, right?

Wrong.

This consultant has had their scope of work in the review process for almost 9 months, and while a large chunk of this is not a direct result of their work, I can’t help but think that their prickly demeanor is making a frustrating situation untenable. They have no issues with telling the people who work for the city, the people who ARE REVIEWING OUR PROJECT, that they aren’t very good at their job. [ALERT] In case you didn’t know this already, that is a bad idea. This is a small excerpt from an email they sent to the Assistant City Manager … brace yourselves:

“Please don’t misunderstand me.  This has been somewhat of a windfall for me.  I can charge double the fee I get in [redacted] and still get projects because other engineers don’t want to deal with the hassle.

Your city has a terrible reputation and it is getting worse.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me??!!!

I have been trying to think whether or not this was the worst thing I have ever read in an email … sadly, it is not, but it does hold the honor of coming in second place.

Despite our current situation, I actually like this consultant as a person, but I can’t afford to have a loose cannon like this on one of my projects. At some point, I think it is incumbent on all professionals to understand the ramifications of the things that come out of their mouth. I know this person is frustrated, and I’ll even go so far as to say that they have some right to be frustrated … but you have to watch your mouth. There is literally zero upside to this sort of action and they are past the point in their career when they should have learned this lesson. I ended up spending time I shouldn’t have needed to spend repairing the relationship with the city staff, and through reasonable dialog and conversation, was successful in presenting our argument to the city. Rather than punch, kick, and scream, our challenge within the City was handled with patient and persistent conversations during which time, nobody was insulted.

Shocking, right?

It’s always good advice to be mindful of the things you say to other people … but you should really be careful about the things you write because just like recordings, they can live on forever.

Keep it real – and watch your mouth.

Bob signature FAIA


Source: Life of an Architect