Remember on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, how Mr. Rogers would come in and change his coat and shoes at the beginning of every episode? He would hang up his suit coat and put on a sweater, and then he’d take off his dress shoes and put on sneakers. The folks at The Fred Rogers Company explain:
Fred wanted to do something at the beginning of each program that signified that he was taking time out of his work day to visit with his television neighbors. So he took off his “work” clothes (suit jacket and shoes) and put on his more casual sweater and shoes.
I was reminded of Mr. Rogers when I came home from a business seminar one day and immediately exchanged my dress pumps for loafers.
Thinking about this little ritual got me thinking not only about Mr. Rogers, but also about how our behavior at home is different from our behavior in public. When we’re out, we put on our best clothes and our best face and our best behavior. At home, we get casual not only in our attire but in our manners. There’s a difference between our public and private personas. We’ll reveal things at home to our families that we won’t show others.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.”—Fred Rogers
But there’s a dark side, too. Sometimes because of the safety and casualness of the home, we let loose our anger and fear there. I once asked one of my son’s teachers why he was so well-behaved at school and yet could sometimes be a wild child at home. She said, “Because he knows he’s safe there.”
In the same way, when I was working a day job I often vented anger at my poor family when the people I was really angry with were in the workplace. I’ve also seen people use “frankness” or “authenticity” as an excuse for what would otherwise be called rudeness.
On the whole, I think the separation between our public and private lives is a good one. We’ve all seen Facebook and Twitter disasters resulting from oversharing. But once in a while, in a Mr. Rogers sort of way, maybe we need to get casual with our neighbors—or colleagues—and let them see who we truly are.
If we can do that, it probably won’t matter what shoes we’re wearing.
”I’m like you see me on the Neighborhood. People long to be in touch with honesty and with another human being that they feel is real, rather than a show.” —Fred Rogers