Although I am by profession a techie, even I am in the people business. In between life and death battles with networks and misanthropic file servers, I spend a great deal of time dealing with people. End users, colleagues within my department, tech support people and vendors. Preponderantly, these interactions are pleasant, even upbuilding, but occasionally there are exceptions. Today it occurred to me that there are two behaviors which will poison any interaction and leave at least one of the participants wishing they had never spoken with you.
We interrupt this discussion for . . . an interruption.
Interrupting the flow of a conversation to make a point, challenge a point, or to argue about definitions of words seems to have become much more common of late. I’ve seen it in personal conversations and even in technical sales calls. If someone has to defend their every word and can’t utter more than two sentences without a pointless argument regarding the choice of words; that conversation will become long and pointless, until the non-argumentive party decides to make the conversation short and in the past.
Techies sometimes use this as an intimidation technique and others just use it to keep from being pinned down by an argument. In either case, the victory is temporary. In business the gold makes the rules and argumentative reps, etc, tend to find themselves talking to their shadow, usually in the unemployment line.
In personal friendships the badgered party can end the friendship at will, leaving the badgerer talking to his or her shadow as well. I’ve seen people that operate that way on many occasions, but what I have never seen is such persons surrounded by a lot of friends. Badgering, of any sort, might give the impression of victory and the exertion of power, but in the long term it’s an express ticket to failure and friendlessness.
What is the opposite of good faith?
Garrison Keillor wrote some wonderful books about life in Minnesota, and life in general. While his writings were, for the most part lighthearted, there were occasions in his writing where characters in his books spoke out about judgmental behavior and the negative viewpoints so often encountered. While a character in Lake Wobegon Days may have spoken the dialogue, remember that the author of the words was none other than Keillor himself.
Reading the “95 THESES” in Lake Wobegon Days exposed just how negative attitudes can become if not recognized and excised. Let me share a few favorites:
“32. Your own mistakes you managed to explain to your own satisfaction. When you hurt people, you explained that you didn’t mean to. When you gossiped malicious gossip, you explained that “everyone knows this and besides it’s true.” You had a good reason for every dumb thing you did which you said I would understand someday. I don’t. I don’t understand it at all.”
“72. Anyway, I was brought up to believe that whatever happens to people is their own fault. There were few if any disasters that you couldn’t explain by citing the mistakes made by the victims. ‘She never should have been there in the first place.’ Even if you had to go back thirty years, you could find where they took the wrong fork in the road that led directly to their house burning down, their car being hit by a truck, their hands being eaten by the corn picker.”
Well, you get the idea. The quotes from Keillor’s work are exaggerated for comic effect, but also do a good job of illustrating the insidious nature of negative attitudes. Hopping back to the real world; it’s very difficult to find joy, success or much of anything good if we take a good hard look at everything and not stop looking until we’ve found something to criticize.
And now the application.
New developments, inventions, what have you, can be greeted in a friendly manner, or they can viewed as simply another manifestation of the badness of the world. The truth, as always, lies somewhere between the extremes of absolutely everything being wonderful and literally everything being evil. But we tend to find that we search for and if we have the sensitivity of our evil detectors set to its highest setting we will end up detecting a lot of evil. Turn down that sensitivity far enough and you realize that pretty much everyone is in the same boat, struggling against the very real challenges of life, but hopefully taking some time to enjoy the good things that happen.
If one’s worldview is one of being the last righteous person living in a depraved world, then it’s an inevitable fact that ineffectiveness will follow, and probably sooner than later, unemployment. Using my own experience as an example, life is much better when I’ve eschewed negative viewpoints and embraced positive ones.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the most unhappy people you know. With the obvious exception of people undergoing cruel circumstances, I would feel safe in saying that the unhappiest people tend to be those with the most negative attitudes toward life. I can read about the war in Syria and be justifiably discouraged, but an infant or a kitten can make me smile, and thats much better.
Return a baby’s smile, pet a kitten and try to see the good in others. It’s a more effective way to deal with life.