Let’s F*cking Talk About It.
If you know me then you know I’ve never not shown up as my authentic self. What does that mean? Well, in no order of importance:
1. I am smiling! What can I say, I have always felt a smile welcomes everyone as equally as it can soften the blow of a sharp, yet honest comment.
2. Leaning-in with a touch on the shoulder. Or if we really know each other you get a hug. No matter whether we’re in a personal or professional setting. Frankly, for me there is no difference!
3. I am elevated! Yup, wearing heels!
4. Even on a construction job site.The volume of my voice goes up 2 to 3 octaves if I am talking about anything closely related to Design Equity!!
5. I engage everyone. If there’s peoplea person in the room, in real life or Zoom, I scan the room for facial expressions and social cues. If I get an inkling someone needs to speak, but someone is being overbearing. Myself at times included, is said overbearing person! But I will say “Tyeesha, you were going to chime in…..”
6. Exclamation points. I use them excessively sans any necessary grammatical reference!
7. Finally, I use colorful language. Yup, I f*cking curse. It doesn’t matter the setting! On panels, as a keynote, as a professor, with my friends, in a board meeting, on a podcast, in the classroom, in my company…You get the f*cking point.
The latter is what prompted me to write this, which is rare. I am more successful as a verbal communicator. But something I recently wrote garnered a response that caught me off guard:An out of office email!
We have all written them. At Determined by Design we are very competitive about our OOO responses. It’s a small thing but our team is serious about them in a good and disruptive way.
On a brief trip my OOO read:
“Great Day! Great Day!
I am currently traveling until DD.MM.2022. I will not be responding to emails. Don't worry I have the best fucking team who makes it all happen. Connect with them if you cannot wait until my return.
Have a determined day!”
Notice anything? Yup there are 3 exclamations points and a “f*ck!” in there. Now, on the DBD OOO scale of 1 to 10, my team would probably rank this a 4 at best.
It garnered the following response. Their message said:
“Please consider removing the word “fucking” from the OOO description of your team. DBD represents X’s interests on our projects, and the language would reflect negatively on us [if]were a funder, city/state/federal agencies, or other party [were] to see it.”
Even copying this I hung my head in disbelief. Let me explain why…
1. DBDs culture is built on people showing up as their whole selves. I pride myself mostmore on my team members seeing an example of Kia being Kia.
2. DBD represents the interest of the communities we serve through interior design first. The interest of my team comes a close second, but it’s because my team also reflects the communities we serve, so it still aligns with the interest of communities. There have been times where the explicit bias of a development partner, property management, general contractor, funder, state and local agency, etc…have been so forth right, used under the guise of a “standard” that it makes our jobs that much harder. Yet we never waiver. We never not speak up. We never not educate our partners and all the constituents involved. Because Design Equity is what we stand for!
3. My candor is actually appreciated! Most people are too scared to show any passion for fear of not being “professional”. No, it doesn’t mean everyone needs to start dropping f-bombs. Then it would be unauthentic! This exact thing happened in a room full of design luminaries. I spoke how I speak, then way too many people felt they, too, needed to curse. It got weird quickly!
4. That’s when I realized they seldom had carte blanche to have a little freedom not in their language but to show up exactly how they are.There is a difference between cursing at someone and cursing as an expression. I seldom curse AT someone!
5. Everyone’s communication styles are different based on their cultural and community up bringing. My dad often cursed, 20+ years in the military, and add in being deployed overseas, that’s just the language and communication style I know.The things people say behind closed doors, the biases, bigotry, is how we got to where we are today. Those things are way more f*cking problematic than my f*cking cursing.
6. If you’re focusing on when, why or how I use colorful language then you are missing the point. We zoom in on perceived notions of acceptable behavior as opposed to zooming out and just seeing a person. We take ourselves and this notion of “professionalism” sto seriously that we forget business is about people.
I am many things! I have many titles. I have many awards! As they have added up over the years, I have made it even more of a point to reiterate that at the end of the day, I am just f*cking Kia.