The Jerk

This guy I know has this saying, “An unguarded strength is a double weakness.”  I’ve heard him say it several times, but recently this concept is beginning to hit home with me.  I usually get into trouble with detail orientation and analysis.  If I’m not careful these strengths can turn into a huge weakness.

I work with numbers, systems, and communication.  I essentially manage a hub of information, and because of this I end up critiquing and looking for problems all day long.  My work needs to be mostly error free and the information I pass on needs to be correct.  The problem occurs when I forget about harnessing these strengths for good, and they start to become faults.

Constantly when my wife and I go somewhere, especially restaurants, I’m always critiquing the service.  Before we even walk in the door I’m evaluating.  I have a friend who’s much the same way, and we’ve actually left restaurants before – yes, walked out and yes, restaurants plural – because we weren’t happy with the initial service.  I’ve given my “expert” opinion many more times than I was asked for it, burned a few bridges, and would’ve burned even more had my wife not saved me from doing something stupid.

I could tell story after story of my dissatisfaction with all kinds of things.  However, that really would not get us anywhere.  I think I’ve realized I’m critical, because it’s much easier to point out all of the problems than it is to be part of the solution.  It’s really simple to point out a lot of problems in organizations, but it takes a lot more time, effort, and energy to dig in and try to fix them.  Then, what if you buy-in and start to become part of the solution – what if things don’t work out?  What if you can’t fix the problem?  What if you try everything you know how, exhaust all your resources, and it still fails?

I’ve found the best way for me to guard against these weaknesses is to jump in anyway.  Get on board.  Usually in a few weeks or a month I forget about how worked up I was about it taking 4.7 seconds too long to bring my water to the table, poor song choice at an event, or somebody not calling me back for a few days.

How do you fight being The Jerk?

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