Pointing fingers and pig-headed fools

by  Jane Perdue  |  Self Leadership

His public message to me was terse even by Twitter standards for brevity:

“@thehrgoddess Your tweets are drivel. #unfollow”

My first thought after reading that message was how rude.

Curious, I reread the tweet that prompted this attack (how I was feeling) – it was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

I love quotes. I see them as succinct storytelling at its best. So, in that frame of mind, I responded, “Guess you don’t share my love of quotes.”

To which he replied, “Didn’t expect you to respond but like I said they are drivel so don’t want to associate with you.”

How judgmental, shouted my brain. My feelings were a bit hurt, too. Thinking there was a lesson to be learned, I made a note in my ‘write about this’ file to explore what the exchange had meant to me.

Several months passed before that note surfaced and I began my research. Little did I realize at the inception of my writing how hard it would be to write about being judgmental without being judgmental myself. I didn’t see that result coming.

The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too. So while you point your fingers someone else is judging you. ~Bob Marley and The Wailers

As I read and reworked my draft, everything I wrote sounded sanctimonious and smug. The very attributes I had initially ascribed to drivel man. I found that circle shocking, insightful and pretty darn humbling. I had, as the poet William Blake wrote, opened the “doors of perception.”

In retrospect, my initial Twitter response to him smacked of unconscious judgment, implying there was something superior about loving quotes. When I wrote that, I was wallowing in the same mud as he, oblivious to the fact that we were warring with words and doing so within individual bubbles of self-perception. I obviously had much to learn in leading myself to avoid unintentional judgment.

I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool. ~Bertrand Russell

As I thought more about assessing what people say and my doing so without coming across as self-righteous, three going-forward points surfaced:

Don’t confuse opinions with facts.  In my first response back, I implied that he, too, just like me should find value in quotes because that’s the right thing to do. Using words like should, right, wrong, fair, etc. convey a morally superior stance (my views are better than your views) which diminishes the other and closes the doors to learning, engaging and connecting.

Labels don’t build, they destroy. The gentleman’s use of the word “drivel” hit a hot button. Who wants to be labeled as silly nonsense?! We’re hard-wired to categorize so we can make quick sense of a complicated world. Yet using that hard-wiring to condone substandard behavior is an excuse. As character-based leaders, we have the power to over-rule and rethink our unconscious biases.

Let others find their own truth. So many of our life, love and leadership experiences push us toward either/or outcomes. I’m now going to be judgmental:  reducing our behaviors, thoughts and actions to either/or results is wrong. The path another takes may be different than mine. And that’s all it is – different, not better or worse, just different.

Except as we venture to create, we cannot project ourselves beyond ourselves to serve and lead. ~Robert Greenleaf

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About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  12 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Excellent post Jane. I appreciate how you make learning experiences and teaching experiences out of everyday life. Judgment is a good think. It’s important to be judicious, applying good judgment, but to limit our application to ourselves. Interesting how many people think they have to fix everyone else on Twitter. Simply unfollow anyone you don’t want to listen to. People unfollow me every day. I appreciate Wayne Dyer’s quote about what our judgment shows. Who I don’t follow should line up with who I am. How I unfollow them probably does too.

Thanks for making me think and smile this morning. Love the post. Mike…

Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Mike — so glad to hear that the post made you smile and think! Thank you for the kind words. In my second act of life, I keep working on the “corporate detox” so I can bring a more open and inclusive approach to redefining leadership through everyday practice. Smiles headed your way!

amy diederich  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Jane this maybe my favorite of your many posts and that is saying a great deal because I love your posts! I used to have a friend in highschool who always told me she prided her self on being open minded and non judgmental we would debate her view points and in my arguing that she was judgmental I always proved myself to be evenmore so!
great post keep tjhe quited coming!

Jane Perdue  |  14 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Amy – big thanks and smiles for your kind words! As I keep discovering, the “judgment” quicksand is everywhere and quite relentless. Love your story….tells the message beautifully!

John E. Smith  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Jane …

One man’s “drivel” is another’s “pearls of wisdom” …

Thanks for both giving me something of real value to share this morning and a little smile right off the bat. Love your attitude and your ability to express.


Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

John —

I’m delighted you enjoyed the post! Finding that sweet balancing spot between confidence and humility makes me a perpetual work in progress!

Thank you for sharing and making ME smile,


Deb Costello  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Lovely post on my first day of school… I am reminded that not everyone thinks like me… and thank goodness for that!

Thank you!

Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Deb — I, for one, really enjoy how you think and dare to travel the road less traveled and how you share that wisdom with your students and the rest of us. Smiles and thanks!

Stan Faryna  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

I enjoyed your reflection.

Unfortunately, 140 characters doesn’t tell a story – 99 percent of the time. [grin] And I still make that mistake – substituting a quote for a story, explanation or rational argument. A story has to have a dramatic arc. At least, that’s what a literature professor will tell you. [laughing]

Quotes, as much as I enjoy them, can come across as authoritarian, dogmatic, brash opinion, or nonsense – depending on your reader. Because social media is a bazaar of ambition, opinion, mood, fact, lies and feeling – results, reactions and responses will vary. Therefore, I try to speak from the heart (right or wrong) and let the chips fall where they may.

While it seems best to use quotes (if you must use them) as an illumination of your thoughts on a subject, remember that when you quote, you diminish your contribution from the equation. Or, worse, you attempt to ride on their tailcoats).

A quote emphasizes some one else – with special emphasis on the authority, reputation and name of the quoted person.

In the overwhelming world of social messaging and connection, the last thing most of us need are parrots who throw around quotes (clever, profound or platitude) without context, story or insight. Lots of people do parrot for the sake of making a frequent or profound gift of themselves, but too often that seemingly careless gift comes across cheap and uninteresting as a cereal box toy.

But truly that follower was unkind and selfish in their reaction and we can hope for his sake, that it was a reflection of a bad day and not his moral character (or lack thereof).

Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2013  |  Reply

Stan —

Loved all the teaching and wisdom you expressed in your thoughtful comment. Thanks much for sharing so generously.


p.s. Here’s hoping that the unfollow man is having better days!

MarVeena Meek (@PsychicMediumTX)  |  15 Aug 2013  |  Reply

I enjoyed your post! Thank you

Jane Perdue  |  15 Aug 2013  |  Reply

MarVeena — thank you for letting me know you enjoyed the post!

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