Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Easily Intimidated Are You?

It has been said that I intimidate people.  To the casual eye, I guess I might appear to be intimidating to some people.  It seems to them that I don’t waver under pressure (wrong).  In their eye, I seem to be comfortable in any situation, from a private one-on-one in a coffee shop to a presentation in front of thousands (not always).  As far as they can see, the bigger the fire fight, the more I rise to the challenge, wrestle it to the ground and solve the challenge without any effort (couldn’t be further from the truth).

For many people that I am blessed to interact with, it seems to them (according to what they tell me and others) that such an individual is intimidating to be around. This intimidation produces in some people’s minds, a wrestling match between their ego and the other person’s (even though the other person is unaware of it).  The wrestling match produces one of three outcomes from the perspective of the observer:

1. My ego is ok with this and we can find things to collaborate around.

2. My ego feels it is not worthy and I don’t understand why he would bother with me, therefore I will not participate for fear of not living up to his expectations.

3. My ego feels it is threatened, that his ego will exert influence over me or have knowledge that I don’t (thus making me look bad) and so I will avoid the opportunity to collaborate.

For those in categories 2 or 3, when they discover that I want a true win-win collaboration, this throws their ego off even more and suggests to them that I must have an ulterior motive on top of an inflated ego.  This deepens their reasoning that their ego must be protected from embarrassment and ridicule at all cost and so a collaboration must be avoided.

Meanwhile, those in category 1 know that the only difference between arrogance and confidence in the one they observe is usually just perspective - notice I said usually :-).

People may be surprised to know how many people there are in categories 2 and 3 who are in high positions of power; whether in government, business or other institutions.  I believe that categories 2 and 3 make up a significant percentage of people in positions of leadership.

What a Waste of Potential

We waste so many opportunities to collaborate and to create positive results for the greater good when we fail to realize that we all bring incredible gifts, talents and strengths to the table. 

With such gifts, there is no need for ego-wrestling.  We all need each other.

The threatened observer, while perceiving a large ego in the observed …. 

is merely observing the gap in egos between the observer and the observed and not the ego of the observed.

In other words, it’s not that the observed person has too great an ego ….

it’s that the observer may have too small an ego.

A More Insidious Intimidation

While we choose to work with people (or not) based on this ego gap, there is another type of intimidation going on in the world that we accept but I believe is potentially more crippling or debilitating in our lives.

I call this intimidation “information or intellectual intimidation”, the use of facts, figures, credentials or a majority opinion to force people into a desired action even when the facts are nebulous, inaccurate or downright wrong.

One could write thousands of pages, citing many examples.  Let’s look at just a few.

1. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking place allegedly for our freedom and protection.  When one presses for the proof, we are told “it’s obvious” but when we demand the ultimate proof, we are told it’s a national security issue and so we accept that we cannot be told.  Meanwhile, cancer, heart disease, stroke and car accidents will kill far more people on an annual basis and yet don’t get anywhere near the funding to solve.  If we voice an opinion against the war, we are told that we are unpatriotic, we are allowing the terrorists to eventually win or that we are not supportive of our troops (who are great people that we should feel a deep level of gratitude for) and so it is a hot potato that many people will not touch.  None of these reasons are true – but our voice is a small one against the cries of the majority or the powerful (who are not necessarily smarter than we are).

2. The stimulus money in the US artificially and temporarily propped up the economy, providing a band aid to keep it moving.  The proponents of the stimulus money cite the positive statistics as proof that it works and yet when people ask “what happens when the stimulus money, which is not infinite, stops flowing”, the querents are told to stop being so pessimistic.  Not wanting to go against “the positive signs of the recovery” or wanting to hope that the designers of the stimulus programs are smarter than they are, people stop asking questions.  Now as the stimulus funds start to dry up, foreclosures continue to be high, new house sales are down, national and personal debt levels skyrocket and unemployment numbers remain high, people who are trying to ask questions are being shouted down as pessimistic, un-American, misinformed, etc. and so they keep their opinion to themselves.

3. We spend billions on airline security on an annual basis to prevent terrorists from killing us in the air.  When we ask how effective this investment is, we are told the proof is self-evident – look how no terrorists have taken planes out of the sky recently.  When we ask for proof that the investment is directly responsible for this, we are told we cannot know the details because of “national security”.  Meanwhile, people like the “underwear bomber” can STILL get explosives on planes (as admitted by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano) while we can’t bring nail clippers on board.  Insiders in the airline industry tell me that they routinely find firearms and other weapons planted on certain overseas routes.  The professional terrorist will do what they wish to do but we accept what we are told by “the experts” as what is best for our protection.  When someone hides the facts and details under “national security” or they embarrass people who question what is going on in the airline industry, the intimidated stop asking questions or making public observations.

4. Corrupt politicians (not all are corrupt) pass laws that make scrutiny of their spending habits to be beyond inspection (again, for national security reasons, privacy reasons, etc) but tell us that this is ok because they have our best interests at heart anyway.  We begrudgingly accept this but then we are surprised and angered when one example after another appears where the same politicians then dipped into the trough repeatedly, illegally and without concern (or any semblance of morals).  So we get angry, demand an atonement, accept their apology and hope it never happens again. Sure – until the cycle repeats itself.

There are many more challenges that trouble people privately and professionally and yet they are kept quiet for fear of losing their job, their friends, their family, etc.

The “emperor is not wearing any clothing” but for a variety of reasons, we stay quiet or look the other way. Meanwhile, our challenges grow – we just don’t discuss them publicly.

This seems to be to be the ultimate intimidation. and given the potential impact, a very dangerous one.

We Need To Decide What is Really Important

So our ego works to protect us from what it perceives as immediate threats against itself when we engage in one-on-one interactions, when many of those interactions may have produced results far greater than anything we could ever have accomplished by ourselves.

Meanwhile, greater threats to our prosperity and well-being are at play every day and yet we don’t see them or we are afraid to have an opinion about them, for a variety of reasons.

I wonder if our egos need to choose our battles more intelligently.

On the one side, our ego rises to protect us without having any facts to justify its behavior.

On the other side, it accepts things from certain people with specific titles, again without having any facts.  However, many of us make the mistake of assuming that having a title makes some people superior in intention, morals or values and so facts aren’t important in these situations.

When we strip the titles off those people, they are all just people and so our ego should hold them accountable to the same set of rules.

As Neale Donald Walsch wrote:

Be aware

Be honest

Be responsible

Let’s apply our ego consistently across the board – to collaborate, to question, to see the gifts in ourselves and others and to make a difference for ourselves and the greater good.

Better yet, don’t let your ego do the talking or thinking for you.  What does your spirit or instinct tell you?

In service and servanthood.


PS I’m only as intimidating as you think I am.  Don’t believe me?  Rather than guess or assume, reach out to me to find out for yourself and to see what we can create together.  :-)

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of "How Easily Intimidated Are You?”, please click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment