I know a woman, not a bad woman, but difficult, whose communication style is such that she engenders wailing and gnashing of teeth wherever she goes. She has a manner that pokes wounds and punctures buoyancy. People dread hearing her voice.
I don’t believe she’s aware of it. I think she sees herself as witty, compassionate, an old softy, and that part of her abrasiveness comes from her defense against her perceived softness. Another part comes from her growing up in a part of the country with a different communication style from where she ended up.
Unfortunately, she has climbed so far in her corporate stratosphere that no one, no matter how kindly or with any amount of well-meaning concern, can take her aside and tell her that she makes enemies for herself.
Those of us who can still get the withering phone call, the insult, the humiliation of our errors, miscalculations and self-delusions are lucky, though it never occurred to me before. It’s easier to learn from your mistakes if people aren’t afraid to tell you about them.
This is a principle that has far-reaching consequences–in politics, the media, religion, corporate life–about the use of power for self-defense and the dangers of that kind of self-protection. I suspect that some of our high-profile failures in recent years missed this little lesson from life at dog-level.