Personal Best

Those of you who have gleaned insight into my personality from reading here or perhaps from a real life confrontation encounter know that I am nothing if not honest. The rants you know and love, the well-honed skills of observation that get right to the heart of the matter, are 99.44% pure me. I do hold back from time to time. Yes, I do. I want there to be no cause for apology for what I write. So far, I can say, “Yeah, I wrote that” and it doesn’t hurt one bit. Holding back when I speak, like writing with my left hand, is not something I do very well. It’s not in my nature and this creates problems for me. (From time to time.)

I suspect others don’t struggle with the overwhelming compulsion to interject into discussions in a group setting like I do. This is why I am asking for your help. You see, I find myself these days in need of some sort of governor. Not so restrictive as to completely muzzle me, but at least enough of a preventative measure that I don’t just blurt out exactly what is on my mind. Something short of an electric shock each time I try to speak in class would work. (I think.)

I wouldn’t bother you except, well, my enthusiasm seems to be off-putting to some people. I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. Actually, I’ve had this failing all of my life. There have been times when a manager has recommended I stop trying to make everyone else look bad. I don’t try. People have a way of doing it all on their own. (Without any effort on my part.) If this sounds arrogant to you, stop reading now.

Good, now it’s just the two of us. It has come to my attention that my confidence can come across as arrogance. Oddly enough, the only people who have ever had a problem with my level of confidence are men. (I’m just sayin’.) I suppose I need to be more sensitive to this particular brand of manhood.

This request for help stifling it correcting my behavior is tongue in cheek, of course, but the fact remains, I am flawed. Being self-aware makes ones flaws crystal clear. One thing I’ve always been able to rely on is being genuine. For better or worse, it’s who I am. Lately, I have taken to writing notes to myself in the margin of the course syllabus during class. Notes that remind me to PRACTICE SHUTTING UP DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT – THE TEACHER HATES MY GUTS HOPES I DROP THE CLASS BEFORE MIDTERM.

Today I ended up marking through the notes while pretending not to hear the key words that send me into contributory mode without even raising my hand. I drew circles over the words and colored them in with my pen, creating a legion of crazed one-armed robots. As you can tell, this behavior, left unchecked, could potentially deplete my bank of class participation points. For the record, I do not deliberately try to be confrontational.

Any tips you have to help me will be greatly appreciated.

23 thoughts on “Personal Best

  1. I had a prof that had some views that were clearly personal and that he chose to incorporate into his curriculum. Basically he held the position that a certain group of people were less capable because of their belief system – that in choosing that particular path that they had abdicated their intelligence. He spoke about it, gave us assignments about it and even incorporated it into his tests – I held my tongue and answered questions as honestly and accurately as possible and decided that if those questions cost me the grade, then so be it. I passed and I gave him a tough review – I never took a class from him again. I hope you find a solution, it’s not easy to hold your tongue when you know better.

    1. It is great that there is a review mechanism in place. Course surveys are online which is much better than the ones instructors hand out after corporate training. You know me, I’ll figure it out and live to fight another day. 🙂

  2. Like you just like you. Don’t worry be confidently you, just you. I have had this problem in the past and have the scars on my inner lip and tongue to prove it. In classroom settings it can be difficult. I once took to writing (as if taking notes which pleased prof) “Do you need to say this aloud”, each time I felt the compulsion to speak up. This was done in a class with a prof who was particularly offended by interuptions and challenges. Worse? It was an Organizational Behavior course.

    Never change though, you bring energy to the room.

    1. Val, how did you know? This latest instance happens to be in an Organizational Behavior course. I keep finding myself compelled to give real life examples during “discussions”. It’s funny to me how profs call their lectures “discussions” when they are not the least bit interested in facilitating a discussion.
      Experience trumps a text book any day, in my opinion, but when you can support/enhance a lecture with a real life example, well, that brings the message home. Doesn’t it? I think maybe my interjection causes a bit of a time management stress too. Chalking it up to experience…or lack thereof. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

      1. That is far too funny! I suspect the problem is we have real life examples to provide and perhaps the prof is an academic with same. In my case, this was true, the other thing that was true I was one of the ‘older’ students in the course, most were still very wet behind the ears.

        Oh well, you are adding to / enhancing the learning experience.

        1. Same here. Exactly the same. I’m one of three older students. I’ve already decided to make the most of it. God, it’s only five weeks. What’s five weeks out of a lifetime, right?

  3. Totally, totally identify, Honie! I’ve had the same issue all my life. People who lack confidence can find confidence, especially backed by education and intelligence, very threatening.

    Personally, I vote the “Be Yourself” ticket; one just has to accept the fallout. I guess the bottom line is change if you believe in the change, otherwise don’t. It’s like the old light bulb joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

    (The other thing is that I’ve gotten really tired of accommodating the world’s twitches. The world can accommodate my twitches for the remainder of the lifetime.)

  4. I get the impression too many people define arrogance as “the act of confidently disagreeing with me.” Maybe you wouldn’t catch as much flak if you were standing up and boldly announcing to one and all, “Everything you’re all saying is EXACTLY RIGHT!” But I’m guessing that’s not the case here… 😀

  5. Weebles is so on target.
    Sometimes it’s hard to sit and be numb in the presence of stuff screaming to be addressed – and no one speaks up. (because they are either asleep or scared)
    No one ever thanks you for it. It just causes trouble.
    Tape the lecture for later and in class just read a book to distract yourself….maybe half listen in and ask an obvious question once in a while to the one in charge gets puffed he knows more than you and can show the others that he does.
    (Probably not the best one to ask for advice….staring directly at him and mentally saying what you wish….no. Glares can be confrontational and it’s obvious what you are thinking…snorts and loud sighs…no…probably not the best one to ask)

  6. I have this problem at times too, although strangely, I think I’m basically an introvert. But I understand the whole exuberance thing. I can’t help myself sometimes. I have to really force myself to shut the hell up when people are talking so that I don’t interrupt—not because I don’t want to hear what they have to say, but because I’m so interested in the topic that I get jazzed up. Then there are times when I feel the need to be confrontational, because the circumstances call for it. Someone being an ass, someone doing something really wrong, someone saying things that are either inflammatory and/or flat-out wrong. Nothing wrong with doing that when it’s needed.

    But having met you, I can’t imagine why/how anyone would mistake your confidence for arrogance. Then again, men can be morons.

  7. Sitting over on the introvert bleachers, I have often been bemused (OK and sometimes frustrated) by the apparent need for some people to quickly and regularly make their comments heard in a group setting. I’m only ready to speak in those settings after carefully processing the issues and assessing the group dynamics. It’s interesting to hear what it’s like from the other perspective.

    1. I’m energized by those who share ideas and am always thrilled when I learn something I didn’t expect. So thrilled, that I often share what I’ve learned at the first opportunity. I think an important practice missing from society is thoughtful discourse that engages different perspectives. It’s all this for or against, pro this and anti that. Solving problems requires thinking people willing to see things from different perspectives.

      Starting the wave from the cheap seats, it’s a perspective I’m happy to share any time!

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