Reading a recent and pleasant book in English about project management and leadership, I came across an interesting chapter dedicated to the power of micro messages. From this meeting, both professional and personal considerations emerged.
The micro message is a subtle form of communication, which can be used voluntarily or involuntarily. I think, for example, about the unauthorized parking attendant, who greets me saying: “Good morning, doctor” or to the fellow engineer, who greets me with a “Good morning, madam”. They are both wrong, because they should use “Good morning, engineer”, but the former is more courteous, since the car-park attendant does not know my profession.
I can also mention this weekend’s visit to an exhibition of architecture, construction, design and furniture. All the exhibitors, men and women, with whom I interacted, assumed that I was an architect and not an engineer, just because I am a woman.
In general, we say that we do our work and that we are not our job. In my case, in particular, the two things coincide and merge even in everyday life. I was born an engineer and I did not become so for study or for work. I could mention various funny anecdotes as a reference, but I prefer to limit myself to the photo, which accompanies this article. On the table of my kitchen, in these days, next to the nutcrackers also appeared an old vise, in case the first was not enough.
The micro messages, in their negative meaning, always hide discrimination, prevarication, inequality, sexism, and misogyny. Each of us uses them, either consciously or unconsciously. They contain our prejudices, our conditioning, our disinformation and our habits.
They can convey judgment, criticism, contempt, invasion, offense, insensitivity, exclusion, abandonment, detachment, indifference, and lack of respect. They are the persons, who highlight what they think are your weaknesses, especially in public.
They are the persons who, when you talk to them, look at you with elusive eyes and are distracted and absorbed in other activities. They are the people who, when you talk to them, always interrupt you, because they do not value what you say or think. For them, your opinion and your experience do not count for anything.
They are the persons, who call you aloud or with a disparaging nickname or who confuse your name. They are the people, who do not respond to my messages, who do not greet me or pretend not to see me when they meet me.
They are the persons who raise their voice or make fun of you, minimizing and ridiculing. They are the people, who continually demand your attention without having any regard for your activities. They are the persons who use you as a term of comparison to emphasize your supposed inferiority in something or the superiority, privileges and power of others.
These micro messages are not harmless and innocent, as one might believe or make believe. They create tensions in interpersonal relationships, generate physical ailment and psychological violence. As in all forms of communication, even micro messages can be not received, not understood or misunderstood.
There are also micro messages that transmit trust, sensitivity, solidarity, respect, equality, attention to the needs of others, understanding, gratitude, closeness, affection, approval, praise. They are, for example, a hug, a smile, a caress or a word and a kind gesture, which arrive at the right time.
Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering
References available on request.
Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, L’eloquenza dei micro messaggi