You’re just saying that because I’m Black. You’re just saying that because I’m a woman. You’re just saying that because I’m your mama.
We’ve all done that. Taken something way too personally. I had a student a few years ago who was going into surgery and the doctor came and asked if she had any last questions. I do, as a matter of fact, she said. I have three questions:
1. How do you feel about Black people? The surgeon said, I love Black people and Black music and everything about Black culture.
2. She said, Okay, how do you feel about women? And the guy said, I love women and I’m a happily married man.
3. And she said, Okay, one more question. When was the last time you had sex? And he said, Well, I’m glad you asked that because I had sex this morning and it was great. I’m feeling amazing. And she said, Okay, I’m ready to go into surgery.
In fact, what she was checking was to make sure that he wasn’t going to bring the personal into his public life. Did he like Black people, women and had he gotten laid recently? These are valid questions for determining his state of mind vis a vis her.
Ideally, we do a good job in spite of our personal feelings but that isn’t really how humans work. We aren’t all making or building heavy machinery in a room by ourselves. Much of the work people do involves working with other people.
That’s why it’s always amazing to me when people yell at the host at a restaurant or the mechanic or even the person at the Verizon store. What motivates us to do a better job is being treated well.
In any business, it’s a good idea to treat everyone as well as you can. Be kind whenever possible, the Dalai Lama says, and then adds, It is always possible. In the book business, you need people to do things for you. It’s that simple. To get published and then get your book to sell, a lot of people are going to have to help you out. So you are going to have to treat a lot of people like they matter. Your editor, your publicist, your marketing person, book sellers, radio hosts, the list of people you should treat with the best attention you can is long. But you can do it. Because you are basically a nice person and you want your book to succeed.
What if you have a boss or someone you work with who makes everything personal? You say, It’s not working to do it like this. We need to do it differently. And what they hear is, I hate you. I think you’re an idiot. That’s a problem. In some ideal world, what you can convey is this. I like working here. I like this place, this company, and in fact, I care so deeply, that I’d like to discuss ways we can make things work better. If your boss has an actual personality disorder, this may not work. I’ve described narcissistic personality disorder below so you can see whether they actually suffer from a disorder or just lean toward anxiety. If they actually suffer from a disorder, then here’s my advice for dealing with them, Good luck and there are lots of other jobs out there.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. While this pattern of behavior may be appropriate for a king in 16th Century England, it is generally considered inappropriate for most ordinary people today.
People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician.
• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
• Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
• Requires excessive admiration
• Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
• Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
• Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
• Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
• Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes