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Don’t Get Into A Piss Fight With A Skunk



My Dad might be the original Disruptive Innovator.

Actually, that’s not entirely true…my Marvy Grandma, Anna Evelyn, did her share of questioning authority in her career as a middle school math teacher.  Loved that woman!

Like fathers everywhere, he gave me advice.  A LOT OF ADVICE.

As a young woman, I completely did not appreciate it.  However, as the saying goes…the older I become, the smarter my parents are.

I have a lot of his great stories and advice stored up in my mind.  I bet you have a bunch of #WednesdayWisdom phrases stuck in your mind, too!

A phrase I remember most….and have used more often than I can count….is skunka piece of advice he gave me during my teen years.

“Don’t get into a piss fight with a skunk.”

These words of wisdom I relate to my own kids as:  “Grandpa Dar’s #1 rule.”

I’m pretty sure he didn’t coin the phrase, but it’s where I recall hearing it first.

As a nurse, practicing in diverse settings over the past umpteen years has helped me grow a tough skin. I can pretty much shake off the nasty comments of the occasional arrogant and egotistical colleague. Or the small-minded, belittling comments of ‘Nurse Bullies’ I have encountered from time to time.

But occasionally, something really ticks me off and I’m tempted to use all the creativity I can muster to craft a witty and sarcastic response. Not long ago, I received an email from one of the few people I know who fit into the category: #PeopleWhoSuck.

Seriously!!??? You’re writing this in an email? You’re Kidding Me, Right?!

‘Good’ Carol and ‘Evil’ Carol were arguing on my shoulders as I made the three hour drive to ‘The Big City’ for a work assignment. By the time I was halfway there, I had composed several great (and sarcastic) remarks in my head. Even as I parked my car after the drive, I thought the answer was to respond to the mean-spirited comment.

By the time I reached my first meeting of the day, the ‘pissing match’ advice from my Dad had made its way to the forefront of my mind and I knew I wouldn’t follow through with my sarcastic, but eloquently expressed, reply.

And, actually, this is a solid principle.

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 piss fight with a skunk.”

So…I’m curious.  What #WednesdayWisdom phrases are tucked back in the corner of your mind?  How do you apply them in your life?


Carol Bush
Carol Bush

I am a Coach & Mentor to High Performing Health Writers. I co-host The Savvy Scribe Podcast and champion #PlainLanguageWriting.

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  1. Carol,

    I love your advice.

    Over the years, I have learned that not responding is often the best course of action. Hard for an Irish girl with the temper to match!

    Letting go of old habits and ways of responding takes practice….just like other skills.

    Thanks for this post,

  2. What fun words of wisdom, Carol and I love your reflection questions re: responding or NOT!

    As much as I advocate for giving and receiving constructive feedback and working through conflict, sometimes walking away is the best recourse. Ironically, I’m betting not responding gives someone some feedback nevertheless! 🙂

    Btw, I was house-siting in a beautiful home on 8 acres in NH recently w/ frequent sitings of deer, turkeys, and skunks. I was heading out for a walk one morning and saw a cute little baby skunk nibbling and walking around the grounds….i gave him a very wide birth!!!

  3. Good post! I love the metaphor and lesson from the father. Always fun to read things like this. To think of a lesson I always take with me… don’t respond immediately when mad. This is often full of emotion and things are said in haste. I especially use this with email. If I get an unsettling message, I like to sleep on it and plan my response, before writing back. It helps to re-read emails two or three times too, before sending. This way you are sure to cut any unnecessary BS out of the note! I don’t have a cute analogy for this… just think before you talk, I guess!

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I help health brands create authoritative, well-written and well-aligned content. That’s it. Health writing changes lives.