2014-04-20

Variations on a Theme by Jeff Haden

What better motivation can one have?
I have been big fan of Jeff Haden's ever since I caught some of his published opinions on LinkedIn. I think this gifted author has the right mix of good sense, professional approach and human touch that makes any subject he addresses take on a new dimension. Put simply, I often relate with his point of view and it just makes sense.
I must admit that when I read the title of his post: 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate People, I was more interested in mischief than self improvement. There was this awesome author telling me exactly what I need to do to prank my friends. It turned out to be nothing like that. Instead, I was stopping after each subtitle, amazed by the uncanny resemblance to an overwhelming majority of my compatriots.

Warning: This is where you would stop reading if you are the overzealous patriotic type who refuses any criticism and considers Lebanon to be the birthplace of all that is good in this world.

To fully understand my comments you would have to read the original article but here is a summary of the original 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate people, along with my take on how sadly they apply to our society:

  • You thoughtlessly waste other people's time
    The notion of time-value is non-existent in our society. People never respect an appointment, overstretch their stay, don't show up for meetings and often forget altogether that they were supposed to perform a task within a deadline. It's everywhere and people often rationalize this by useless sentences like: "Everybody does it" (where are you John Becker when we need you?)
      
  • You ignore people outside your "level".
    Everybody measures everybody up before interacting with them. They check out the watch, the car (or keyhanger) the outfit and decide if they would give you the time of day. Even salespeople in less-than-select stores might choose to snub you if they think you cannot afford their merchandise. I won't even get started on the domestic foreign worker discrimination in Lebanon
      
  • You ask for too much
    I can't help but remember this girl in an old job I held. She asked for help coz she was new and  helped her. Soon it was 9 month into her employment with us and she kept calling asking for help "because I'm new here". Family members also excel at this hear and abuse the blood ties beyond imagination.
      
  • You ignore people in genuine needEverybody shows up at Sky Bar for that benefit party because it's a hip venue and the event has been publicized enough. It's a guilt free ride into partying yourself but what about keeping that person in the job he badly needs even if he is costing you more than a fresh grad (or a refugee which you would exploit)?
     
  • You ask a question so you can talk
    The best way to show off your new mobile, car or real estate is to pretend to ask what's the best mobile to own, which car dealership has the best offer or how much is the meter of land being sold in an area. Shortly after that you will definitely be hearing a never ending slur of opinions and tidbits on how that person actually scored the best deal. The 3 topics will shift into girly things if the conversation is entirely female.
      
  • You pull a "Do you know who I am?
    I am the son/daughter of commandant/colonel/general/deputy/minister/president...this ends up with even the police officer serving time instead of the person doing the infraction
     
  • You don't dial it back
    Seriously, I don't need to know about how much your expat daughter makes, or how much you get asked out or how many job offers are you getting. Also, as Ziad Rahbani, our local music & theater genius puts it so well: I think you are the annoying person, not the hat that you are wearing.
     
  • You mistake self-deprecation for permission
    This one's personal. I love self-deprecation jokes. "British Humour" is a soft spot for me. Try pulling off a self-deprecating joke in front of someone and you either end up with an arrogant look "oh my, how could he say this about himself, no one will respect him now" or, for the loose canons, this will end up with a barrage of Fozzie Bear waka waka jokes.
      
  • You humblebragAs part of our oriental culture we are taught from early childhood that modesty (even fake) is a moral obligation. So humblebragging is not a new activity in our society. From parents talking about how their kids would be lost without them looking after their children, to the usual super-employee who is modest about her contribution to the company but without whom nothing would be done...we are covered in that area.
     
  • You push your opinions
    Take a newspaper, any news paper or turn on any talk show whether political, social or artistic and all you can hear are people pushing their opinions and not bothering to hear what the other have to say. I know some of you might disagree with this but I really want to explain my point further because I am sure you will see it my way: now read this last sentence again. see? this is how it's done.
     

Having said my piece on that, I must admit that none of us is immune to these 10 pitfalls in human behavior, but also, none of us is entirely victim to them. I know many of my compatriots who show the same aversion to such behavior as I do.
However, there is a sense of clarity that comes with having detailed this, and understood that the major reason a person might feel alienated by the society they live in, is the fact that such a society adopts standards, which in that person's belief and value system, sound severely out of tune.

I am certain you can come up with an even longer list of good things that distinguish our culture, and I am confident I will agree with that list also; but the bottom line here lies in the delicate balance between what makes you happy in a place and what annoys you. So, no matter how the scale tips, be sure it's doing so for the right reasons!