“Don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk.”

Twenty-five years ago, I had a boss who was a pretty odd duck – I have a lot of great stories about him. But what I remember most was a piece of advice he gave me one day. He said, “Don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t coin the phrase, but it’s where I heard it first.

Serving as the IT communication officer for the past eight years has helped me grow a tough skin. I can pretty much shake off the nasty comments or unfair remarks that are sometimes directed my way. But occasionally, an anonymous blog comment really ticks me off and I’m tempted to use all the creativity and punchy prose I can muster to craft a response.

Before work this morning, I read such a blog comment. Good Susan and Evil Susan were arguing on my shoulders as I drove to work this morning. By the time I was halfway to campus, I had written several great (and sarcastic) blog titles in my head. Even as I parked my car, I thought the answer was to write a post in response to the mean-spirited comment.

By the time I reached my desk, the pissing match advice had made its way into my head and I knew I wouldn’t respond.

And, actually, this is a solid principle for communication professionals. Responding is not always the right action. To correct a factual error? Yes, respond. To correct a misunderstanding? Yes, respond. To get psychological satisfaction? “Don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk.”

Advertisements

Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

5 thoughts on ““Don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk.””

  1. Susan:

    Wise advice, which I found today (Did a google search after this expression came into mind after I was attacked on Twitter (@robertwinermd). It seems that in this day, it’s so easy to be attacked despite being factual. In this case, I listed my professional credentials. So occasionally, it seem one needs to call a skunk a skunk.

    Anyway, thanks for the post you made in 2009, it made me smile and feel a bit more companioned in navigating this new world.

    Be well.

    Robert

  2. Searched this expression after hearing it regarding the fine line President Obama has to walk when dealing with Donald Trump.
    Interesting idiom and appropriately used!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s