An Elmer’s Good Advice
-  Personal counsel on dealing with 'mic fright' and making friends in the Amateur Radio hobby

  Originally published in The Printed Circuit, Newsletter of the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society,  October 2013, page 15
   [VISIT HERE]    Edited/Updated January 2024

       I speak to you now with intended soberness and consideration.  I do not mean to preach, but I would like to share with you two concepts that are dear to my heart and mark my experience here on this Earth.  I wish to first talk about forgiving those that have wronged you.  The hobby will be better served if we all keep a little of this powerful Balm of Gilead at our disposal to mend fences and cause for better relationships over the long-haul.  Then I would like to touch on a sensitive subject that has a great deal of influence in how, not only the hobby is able to transform the shy into the outspoken, but can prove to be the very essence of our hobby’s function: Just as a single lady most likely will never go out on a date with a single guy unless asked, the same can be said about picking up the microphone and calling “CQ” against the spectre of “mic fright.”  I’ll be talking about the need to impose your presence within any type of social structure.

       The Amateur Radio Service, at one time, required the ever-willful hand of FCC agents to wield the punitive instruments of enforcement. As a hobby, we’ve matured to a point where we have been granted less government oversight and are now essentially “self-policing.”  More responsibility lies upon the heads of each individual ham to choose between right and wrong and to act according to our avocation’s better, and often unwritten, aspirations of

       However, as we are all human participants in this hobby, we are more or less prone to fallibility and occasions of poor judgment. On any given night, tune in to any band and you may often hear for yourself, a share of mean-spirited banter and sometimes, just a basic a lack of critical thinking for the sensitivity of others.  This applies to interpersonal relationships between local hams and club members as well.  I need not make mention of the many grudges purported to exist, brought to light by both foul conduct and rumor.

       As you know, we are a “social” hobby and our medium is merely a platform for social interaction rather than a means to an end.  We are not paid for our participation; we act in capacities truly on a personal volunteer basis, and clubs like TARS are really hobby-based associations at heart, rather than vetted service organizations with the expectation of social protocol and hierarchy, so we as individuals are often left with no one to complain to when others ‘cross the line’ except those we’ve gained friendship and trust in.  If we have no one, things can get lonely quick.

       When you find yourself reacting to someone that has offended you, even if it was yourself – might I make a humble suggestion: instead of reaching out for your own Wouff-Hong and Rettysnitch – consider implementing a more powerful and even more effective tool of enforcement; that of forgiveness. This meek concept of “turning the other cheek” is not the seemingly ineffective resort of the passive, but really like a surgeon’s scalpel, a precision tool of intelligent discipline, one even championed by the world’s greatest peacemakers of old.  Granting forgiveness of other’s trespasses is in truth, a sign of strength, not weakness!  The inseparable counterpart of forgiveness is repentance.  If you’ve wronged someone, you should make amends before being able to forgive yourself.

       A hallmark of a great “Elmer” is one who is able to show forth greater forbearance, to be more forgiving, and more willing to walk that extra mile for his fellow person, to reach down and lift up those whom erred – gently showing them the way – and willing to lay aside old grudges to nurture those no more.  Of course, sharp reproval is rightly necessary at times, but only when truly appropriate, which is often hard to judge at the moment when feelings are hurt - but it must be followed only by an increase in kindness and love, lest the offender have no choice but to perceive you as their enemy.  “Good will,” it’s Part 97 law!

       Now for a little on a concept dear to my heart.  For the record, I’ll concede to acknowledging my lack of formal education in psychology and life in general, but perhaps these admonitions apply more to myself.  I call this small philosophy the “Law of Inclusion.”  The law states that: “within, either a social hierarchy or any type of interpersonal relationship structure, acceptance cannot be gained accept only by active inclusion from one party or the other – any absence of inclusion can only result in disassociation.”  In a nut shell, if you go to a party, and you don’t introduce yourself, the odds are strongly against you for walking away with any new friends.  True story:  I know this girl that said she went to a party where she shyly stood against the wall the entire time.  Her friends all came home with phone numbers, and she didn’t.

       I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an ‘introvert’.  And let it be known;  being an introvert has a real value in society rather than being an affliction.  The greatest thinkers and doers in history were introverts, and frankly, the best achievements could only be made in contemplative seclusion.  It is not fair to label all introverts in general as ‘social misfits’, who would rather be by themselves.  On the contrary, as far as I can speak for myself, I do enjoy the company of others, and I hunger just the same for acceptance, but it tends to be more on my terms and find it hard to manage too much interaction for longer periods of time without being worn down.  The recent and troubling circumstance in my personal life can be traced to my introversion rather than a misspent  expenditure of quality time on other pursuits.  A wise person once stated to me “I am the way I was made.”  There is no immediate harm in this thought; it acknowledges one’s own shortcomings, but ultimately, this thinking, if used as a crutch, can become adversarial to one’s personal potential to overcome challenges.  If there is a ‘Great Plan of Happiness’ from some ‘Creator’, surely the ultimate goal is for each of us to overcome the world and our weaknesses and progress above and beyond our natural frame.

       My statement does not imply that being an introvert is of a lower state or somehow a sin, but that whether we introverts like it or not, true joy in our lives will only come from the fruits of interaction with others and not just from within our own imaginations.  We are simply not capable of knowing what is always best for ourselves.  Again, we have our free agency, and we are obligated, if not accountable, to exercise it.

       Over six years ago, after a decade of essentially allowing no one but my spouse, kids and other close relatives to enter my world, I took a bold personal challenge to become an Amateur Radio operator.  I can’t tell you how extremely hard this was, but I knew it was time to ‘come out of my shell’.  I had once heard a talk that was somewhat related to my ‘law’ and decided to experiment upon it.  I set out to get to know the people of TARS and set out to actually talk on the air, even if paralyzed by “mic fright.”  I even sat in on the Friday luncheons even though I felt unnoticed and no one really talked to me.  I did all this
purposely to apply this grand experiment to myself for better or worse.  At times I felt as though ‘including’ my presence and making small-talk would not get me anywhere but to be a recipient of awkward glances.  But I knew the ‘law’ was true, even by the prompting of the Spirit.
stage fright
       Did it work?  Was I now “included” In some lofty radio social circle?  Well… A year ago, I found myself standing at the pulpit at church facing some 300 patrons.  I found myself no longer afraid to speak and I felt the words coming to my mind, even with a little authority on the topic, though with proper humility, for the words then were not of my own – just an introvert.  I caught eyes looking at me, not in leering judgment, but in agreeable affirmation.  I’ve found myself speaking month after month in front of the radio club as an officer, and even now as editor.  I now find myself speaking on the phone bands and pounding a CW key.  Do I have a lot of friends now?  Maybe I do now, but there are many closer ones that I didn’t have six years ago.  I still need to “include” myself
more, even if with some self-apprehension.  How can I apply this concept to those I ‘Elmer’ unless I apply it to my life first?

       I bear testimony, that this law is true.  That you can still call yourself an introvert, you can still enjoy your more productive ‘alone time’ and no one should ever judge you against it – but fear of being hurt or rejected should no longer dictate your course in life or ward off potentially dear associations.  By applying this principal in good spirit, there will be rewards, I promise you, even rewards of hidden treasure that your heart yet cannot conceive!

       Now, of course, this philosophy does not imply or condone the forceful trespassing of personal space, or to linger where you are not truly wanted.  We should leave common sense and intuition up to that guard.  This 'law' also doesn’t guarantee success – it merely specifies action, whether for better or worse.  I pray that I have not stepped on too many toes in my time, and I can only ask for forgiveness.  Do not ever allow yourself to believe the Adversary’s false admonition that;  you cannot be loved, accepted or appreciated.  Amidst the sea of persons willing to shrug you off for one ‘valid’ reason or another, there will be those precious few that will be bettered by knowing you and will indeed look back at your companionship as a required blessing.

       Amateur Radio is not solely a technical pursuit, but one of interpersonal and social advancement.  It is not merely an ideal for communication but an active platform or medium by which relationships are formed and kept.  Enjoy the FCC-granted privileges you hold.  Pick up the microphone and force yourself to talk!  Tap “QRL?” on the key… just get out there and include yourself!  You may someday be glad you did.
       73! DE Mike, K4ICY  MikeK4ICY@gmail.com


Edited: 01/01/24

(C) 2013, 2024 Copyright - Michael A. Maynard