A few months ago, my best friend from college married to money and gathered all her girl friends to a bachelorette pyjama party at one of the poshest hotels in the swanky side of town. It was to be a grand party. Its only shortcoming was that I was not invited.
Ah, just like me to take that omission too personally, as a girlfriend of mine pointed out. Actually, neither our other friend from college nor I was invited, so it’s not as if I were singled out. I felt singled out, however—singled out, left out, and knifed in the back.
I , normally, have a remarkably passionate reaction to such as I am socially tone-deaf; but in this case, I am a Geiger counter.
For a while I dripped my furiously hurt feelings onto the shoulders of some of the lucky invitees, people I thought of as close friends. Seeing me in pain, they unanimously distanced themselves. They were powerless, they explained. Not in charge of the guest list. Felt bad themselves, but these things happen. We can’t all be invited everywhere, now can we? Take it like a grown-up.
You would think that being excluded would be an experience that disappears as we age. When we get older and wiser, we are more thoughtful and inclusive, right? Not always, it is a grade-school agony that recurs throughout life. Apparently, that ostracism continues into adulthood and has some familiar emotional pangs. Being left out is an emotional drama that occurs in three stages (much like the five stages of grief): discovery, distress, and if you’re lucky enough to make it through, detachment. These psychological rhythms prevail whether you are reeling from the whispers of a group of girls at recess or excluded from a lunch out with your colleagues at work.
A few Facebook messages and innocuous comments to FB posts later, decided to ignore the slight. A pyjama party is just a pyjama party, and not a vote on my self-worth, I figured. It was a relief to try obliviousness on for size.
That obliviousness did not come too easily two weeks ago as I faced that once-in-a-lifetime chance of being part of my dream company.
See, for a while now, I’d been contemplating on changing my work environment. It was that nagging feeling I’d been brushing off for quite a few months now. A great chunk of me did not want to shake the boat. Though I crave for the challenge, I feel like I would probably be biting off more than I can chew if I made the switch. New challenges might not be too ideal since I am hoping to wrap up my senior year in OU this year.
I took it as a sign from heaven and a fortuitous event when my dream company reached out to me on Linkedin for a possible employment opportunity. The first round of interviews went rather well. The final blow came when I sat with the hiring manager. She said I sounded like a drunk Brit and that they were looking for someone with a more standard Received Pronunciation.
I’d never felt more singled out and demeaned until that point.. I’ve been working with multinational client, but mot primarily UK and Aussies, for almost a decade now, and I’ve never been made to feel odd.
This reminded me of a long-standing discussion I’ve been having with our clients. A number of them have been coming up to me complaining about the American accent of the people I’d hired. They wanted them to sound more like Union Jacks.
In this age of globalisation, I think it is crucial to be receptive and adaptable especially in the classroom and in th workplace. Though English is a lingua franca and one of the world’s global languages, there are different varieties of the English language. We must tune our ears into a whole gamut of ways of using English.
People who’ve learned other languages are good at doing that, but some native speakers of English generally are monolingual and not very good at tuning in to language variation.
Exclusion is a part of life in any group. Human beings are pack animals, and it is in the nature of the pack to create cohesiveness by establishing a common enemy. Exclusion leaves a pack member vulnerable to attack and renders that pack member hapless and unable to benefit from the strength and collaboration that being part of the pack brings.