Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thank goodness for curmudgeons

I love the word “curmudgeon.” And, while I generally dislike their brashness, arrogance, and archaic views, there is something compelling about them.

Take Andy Rooney, for example. Did you rush to turn on the television at 6:50pm on Sundays to see him opine about some mundane thing we all deal with? His reminder to “slow down, don’t plan, and savor every moment” is one of my favorites because it is a surprise coming from Rooney.

Be honest, when watching Sesame Street with your kids or grands, does Oscar the Grouch often say aloud something you are thinking? Wasn’t there something great about Simon Cowell telling over-indulged singers without talent to get a new hobby? Hours of humiliation and disparagement are not my kind of entertainment; however, Cowell was not wrong about his assessment of some of those talentless wannabees. Right?

Curmudgeons get a bad rap for their antiquated perspective and poor communication style; however, they often serve an important purpose. Curmudgeons voice things others think but hesitate to say. Whether good or bad, at least issues get exposed and discussed when curmudgeons are involved.

Who are the curmudgeons at your office? Are you one? Consider five characteristics below to identify the curmudgeons around you.

You might be a curmudgeon if…
  1. Everything was better in the past, and I mean everything. “They don’t make things like they used to!” is exclaimed by curmudgeons at least monthly. During winter months, curmudgeons reminisce about their five-mile walk to school…in the snow…up the big hill…without gloves or boots.
  2. You are open to change as long as things stay the same. Curmudgeons remind everyone “that’s the way we’ve always done it here.” While knowing the past is useful, continuing to do things the way they have always been done prevents innovation, which could be a key competitive advantage right now.
  3. You refer to recent college graduates as “young whippersnappers,” you hate the goshdern music they listen to, and you can’t understand a word they say. You also may have forgotten that the old geezers spoke the same way about your generation a gazillion years ago. If you want to tell young people to “get off my lawn!” you might be a curmudgeon.
  4. You tell it like it is. Curmudgeons blurt out their every opinion without regard to how they will be perceived. They don’t care what others think about their communication skills because “if they don’t like it, they don’t have to listen to me.” Yes, they say things like that, but they really think people should listen to them. This mindset is why curmudgeons come across as arrogant. It is arrogant deliver every opinion without regard to others’ feelings. If you don’t care, you’re probably a curmudgeon.
  5. Finally, you might be a curmudgeon if people have jokingly called you a curmudgeon. Although you don’t care about feelings, your friends have been hinting because they don’t want to hurt yours. If the souvenir your kids gave you from their trip to Disney World has Grumpy on it, you might be a curmudgeon.
Being a curmudgeon is not an aspiration for most people. In fact, most of us get annoyed with curmudgeons and their harsh ways. Let’s not forget the positive side, though. Curmudgeons bring up topics that might stay hidden, and for that, we can be grateful.

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