Sunday, January 13, 2013

Arrogance and Etiquette

It’s always uncomfortable being around people who think they are superior to those around them and who use this talent in an effort to try to propel themselves ahead in both the business world and in their private lives. I have recently been presented with questions from readers wanting to know what to do from an etiquette perspective when faced with the following scenarios.

What do you do if someone reneges on a promise? A gentleman’s agreement sealed with a handshake should be a man’s word. When the agreement is arrogantly disregarded, what is the most appropriate action to rectify the situation?

No one is above the law of responsibility. This law basically suggests that we take responsibility for our actions and understand that there are consequences for all of our actions, good or bad. It also suggests that we not take responsibility for matters that are not ours. To move forward from this unpleasantness requires being fully aware of just how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place. Blaming other people or outside circumstances is a cop out and will only make things worse. Oddly enough, it’s not difficult to see where we went astray. The next step is to eliminate the problem by either forgiving and letting it go or simply editing the rogue out of your life. Neither is easy, but both options are viable. Remember, you got yourself into this mess; only you can get yourself out. Hopefully lesson learned.

Discovering the Rosetta Stone – oh no, not again! I Another reader laments they have a friend who is going through a mental and emotional growth spurt and is of the opinion that she is going through this unlike anyone else before her and has discovered the secret to happiness. How can one refrain from snapping back at this person after enduring months of this arrogant preaching and remain civil?

At some point along our unique path, we all have ah ha moments. I would venture to say that there is little if anything that the rest of the world will gain from many of them. They are personal discoveries and can be quite illuminating to the person making the discovery for the first time, but may already be very well understood by those around them as they’ve had such an ah ha moment themselves. The tone of delivery is what can be most annoying, and having compassion for the person and for ourselves is one answer. Being supportive is the kindly thing to do, but sharing that this is similar to an experience you’ve had can usually temper the delivery. There are some people who simply are so passionate about their personal discovery that they take this on as their life’s work. Try to avoid engaging them in discussions on this topic and you will soon see that they are otherwise quite delightful – usually.

Woe is me – the world is a plot against me. A third reader shared that he has a friend who is in a terribly deep rut of self-pity and no amount of reasoning or sound advice seems to help. How can someone remain supportive and patient when this person takes on the role of victim with such determination?

People who host pity parties for themselves have usually not been reasoned into this state of mind; but rather have formed it as a defense against their total lack of self-confidence. Unfortunately there is very little that you can do other than edit them out of your life, lest you risk becoming an enabler. Some people need more time to mature mentally and emotionally than others, just as some mature physically at different rates. A great shock to the system will likely be the solution to this boorish behaviour, but don’t take it upon yourself to think you have the solution. Self-discovery is the solution. I know a couple of people like this and I have come to the conclusion that remaining civil, yet disengaged is the best route to take when handling such situations. In business, this type of person is quickly weeded out and often learns his lessons through the school of hard knocks.

In all three of these scenarios, what is important is to avoid confrontation, especially in public, and to allow such people to grow at their own pace, to follow their own path, and to learn to make the right choices in their own time. As a friend of mine once told me, “Stop trying to fix everything”! It was a difficult skill to learn because by my very nature, I don’t like to see others suffering. However, the mark of a true gentleperson is their ability to discern when it is appropriate to engage and when it is better to mind one’s own business.