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Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Jan. 8, 2013

Diamond Tip: "Back in my day"

By Master Sgt. Allen Minner 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant first sergeant

I'm sure everyone has heard a friend or family member start a conversation by saying, "back in my day." I recently used this phrase myself and afterwards, I had to chuckle because I had become my father.

I had referred to a period in time just 14 years ago. Am I justified to use that phrase after only 14 years?

Determining whether a reference to the past is either negative or positive can simply be the tone in which it's used. The stereotypical reference of a more experienced Airman pointing out "how it used to be" to a younger, less-experienced, Airman can often be perceived negatively by the junior member. It can also convey the idea that the senior member worked harder than the junior member did at that pay grade. This may not directly cause a breakdown in the workplace, but it can be like throwing a little bit of sand in the gears.
The positive ways to compare your Airman's adventures to "days gone by" come in two forms. I call them the "appreciative form" and "the history lesson."
Unlike the negative delivery, these forms don't necessarily require the stereotypical lead in but still get the same message across.

The appreciative form is all about delivery and intention. An example would be, "These new computers are fast. Back in my day, we used to store data on floppy disks and couldn't even imagine internet speeds as fast as we have today."

The second form is what I call the history lesson. You will encounter this when a seasoned member speaks about a previous assignment. You get a lot of the "back in my day" material from the history lesson, but the delivery is not intended to insulting. The contrast merely adds character to the story being told.

We are part of a constantly evolving institution that is frequently required to change positions or even duty location. I think it's only natural to refer to the past and make comparisons. What will be your tone and intention next time you find yourself starting with back in my day?