TDot’s Tips #8: Don’t burn your bridges

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 8, 2010 in TDot's Tips | Subscribe

I’ll confess: I was notoriously arrogant when I first got to N.C. State back in 1998.

I know that comes as a shock to all of about -0- of you :P

In hindsight I’m not entirely sure why I acted the way I did. I was only a slightly-above-average student, paired with well-above-average acne and well-below-average athleticism :beatup: But you wouldn’t believe it from how I carried myself and interacted with other folks.

Until I met QuietStorm.

We both were freshman appointees to the single most distinguished student deliberative assembly ever conceived in the State of North Carolina, and both of us got assigned to the same committee. I jumped into the policy debates in person and over the listserv from Day 1, and didn’t hesitate to employ a little vitriol in condemning proposals I considered ridiculous.

In response to one of those emails a few days after our appointment, I got a polite response from QuietStorm — our first interaction with each other — essentially telling me to STFU. My response was far less refined, including at least one reference to me “actively mock[ing]” people with her political beliefs.

She shot back minutes later informing me that I didn’t know her well enough to know her political beliefs, she was only trying to be help me avoid alienating people, and a closing admonishment: “Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’re going to need one.”

I realized she was right — over the next few months I learned that she was not only more politically conservative than me, but that we also made a phenomenal team. So I dialed back the pretentiousness over the next semester and adopted a policy of trying to be courteous and respectful to everybody.1

I’m sure there are plenty of folks in the world who don’t like me, but hopefully their distaste isn’t from anything I did to them :)

Days like today remind me it was a good choice.

It started this morning in response to my quote in this article for the Raleigh News & Observer. I sound like a fool, but got a Facebook message from someone who graduated in 3 years, read the story and wanted to wish me well in law school.  The name looked familiar but I wasn’t 100% sure why. A quick Google search confirmed my hunch — QuietStorm and I both worked with him in the Student Senate way back in 1999.

Then after CivPro I drove down to Raleigh to get my car repaired (again). I was talking with one of my colleagues from western NC about the tuition/fee vote at this week’s meeting of the UNC Board of Governors, and after I hung up a guy standing near the door goes “Hey are you Greg?” After my initial impulse to go “who wants to know?” subsided, I found out he was a student at UNC Pembroke (about 1.5 hours south of Raleigh) who I had met for a few minutes almost a year earlier as part of our UNCASG Listening Tour.

Here in the span of a few hours were two folks, interaction with the former separated by time and the latter by geography, who I never expected to cross paths with again. Imagine how either of those conversations would have turned out had I still been an asshole! :beatup:

And as if Life wanted to underscore the point, just before writing this post I got a terse email from a guy working for an organization I’ll leave nameless, demanding a favor from me in my capacity as President of UNCASG — the largest student advocacy organization in North Carolina, and thus a preferred audience for his group. The guy in question? One of the folks responsible for deploying various crude insults about me2) back during my first campaign for Student Senate President.

Needless to say I declined his request :angel:

As many a 2L, 3L and post-L will tell you, the folks we’re working with in law school are going to end up being our friends and colleagues for years down the road. It’s probably a good idea to treat them well so they’ve got a favorable impression of you in the future, because whether it’s in a courtroom or a car repair shop you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone again :)

Have a great night everybody! :D

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Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Albeit only as a “no first strike” policy: folks who were rude/mean to me or friends were exempt :angel: []
  2. Mispronouncing my last name sounds similar to a feminine hygiene product, which was apparently the height of civic discourse for the campaign. It’s part of why I felt no sympathy when this poster started appearing ; []

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