One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

December 1, 2011


At a workshop with some of my coworkers today, we were discussing leadership strengths or some such and we ended up divided into tables according to strengths. Thusly, I was seated with three other developers, all very analytical people in order to explore the domain of strategic thinking. One of my fellow developers was laughing at some characterization of strategic thinkers as being critical and difficult – always questioning you when they think they’re just trying to get more input about your ideas or why you think they’ll work. “I definitely get the sense that sometimes my analytical traits make people think I’m arrogant,” I laughed

“Not arrogant,” another developer said, “Aloof, maybe.”

I think I snapped my head up to look at him a little too fast, because he assured me very quickly that he was only joking, but I was thinking, “No, aloof is a pretty nice way of putting it, actually. I’ll take that one.”

Driving home I was pondering that. Thinking about some of the conversations I’ve been having lately. Aloof. Yes, that’s probably exactly how I come across. Maybe arrogant if you’re predisposed to dislike me.

So then I was pondering all my relationships and venues, considering how pervasive a part of me that aloofness is, how well I connect with people in different situations.

When Ian and I were first involved, I remember we were having a conversation one day that ran something like, “Ugh, I recognize that I’m being emotionally standoffish and I’m sorry. I’ve been accused of being a cold fish in so many of my past relationships.” And he said, “What? That’s ridiculous. You’re about the furthest thing from emotionally standoffish. I think you’re warm and you care very deeply about how you make people feel.”

I had to laugh when I remembered that Ian used to tell me how in all his previous relationships he had been accused of being emotionally withholding. Maybe he just has a different baseline of appropriate emotional expression. Maybe cold-fish analytical types should get involved with emotionally withholding types.

For real though, I’ve concluded that this idea of warmth vs aloofness is bunk – a way of extroverts writing themselves permission to write off anyone else who isn’t an extrovert, or something similar to calling someone lazy. It’s the most vague and unprovable of value judgments, is highly context-dependent and ignores the role that the labeler plays in setting up a demotivating situation for the labellee.

Who wants to go out of their way to connect with someone who’s looking for labels to stick you with? Who wants to go the extra mile for someone who’s willing to throw around labels like lazy?

That same developer who called me aloof delivered a pretty brilliant couple of lines to the boss, too, about how structures and feedback on your performance are superfluous given that we’re most of us our own worst critic and “if you’re going to tell me I’m doing a bad job when I’ve already assured myself that I’m doing a good job, then I’m not going to question myself, I’m going to question your ability to accurately judge my performance.” Now that’s arrogance. And yet? More than a label, I think it merits a high-five.


« Previous post
Next post »

Leave a Reply