Thursday, May 16, 2013

red ink

Last night at Old Navy, the lady in front of me was checking out, and while I waited I got really irritated with her as she wrote a check for her purchases. She didn't take any longer than normal and wasn't making a scene, so what was my beef? She was writing her check with a red ink pen. I hate red ink.

I was bad, actually terrible, at math when I was in school. All through elementary, middle, high school and even college I struggled with math and had weekly tutoring sessions. It felt like every homework, quiz or test I turned in came back to me covered in red ink - bad grades, x's, circles around wrong steps or answers. And of course, with those papers came self-confidence that tanked as soon as I saw those papers. I hate red ink.

Now, I realize how this sounds, but nothing good in my life has ever come written in red ink, with the exception of a Valentine's Day card which typically comes on fun colorful paper, so I make an exception there. Even when I was an editor in college I avoided red like the plague - just because there's a mistake or an edit that should be made, it doesn't mean it needs to scream at someone that they're wrong. Now that I work on teams, and when I've lead people at work, I don't even touch a red pen when reviewing projects or even sharing feedback. There are studies that show that red ink immediately puts people on the defensive - read more here. Nothing constructive comes from a piece of paper covered in red ink or teammates feeling they're having to defend their work or feeling negative about your feedback.

My Dad's former boss and mentor has only ever written in green ink. Once I asked him why he did this, and in his thick German accent he told me that no one's feelings were ever hurt by seeing green ink on a piece of paper, even if that message wasn't a positive one. I concur.

At the risk of sounding like some kum-by-ya yahoo, am I the only who's really bothered by seeing red ink anywhere but in a Christmas card? I say we abolish red ink in schools, at work and for anything that remotely has a negative sentiment attached to it. Let's make red ink a positive thing for us all, like pretty red monograms or a "just because" note written in red ink. Who's with me?!

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