not personal

It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business. One of Al Pacino’s perhaps most famous lines from The Godfather.

The statement is both true and false.

The goal of a business is to form a legal entity around a model that creates value and profits. Naturally, everything that occurs to the company doesn’t happen to you personally. Therefore, snarky comments made at your business should glide right off you.

On the other hand, what’s really at stake without any personal involvement whatsoever? A deep and thorough empathic understanding of your customer’s problem is needed.

Don’t take it personally, Sonny, but do get personally involved. That’s my take.

ego puffer

Those who feel the need to inflate their ego by criticizing others without offering a solution are inflating the ego of the party at the other end of the table as well.

Perceived as a total waste of time, the advice unasked for will be met with resistance. Lots of it. Inflating the ego of the receiver in the process.

There is a minuscule chance that some value can be derived from criticism, even without alternative solutions. Maybe it sparks some insights or forces the narrative to be altered.

However, without clearly stating what the purpose and desired outcome are of the criticism session, the risk of all egos involved looking like pufferfish is substantial.

impress yourself

Trying to impress someone has very little to do with you. It has almost everything to do with the actual person you’re trying to impress. Maybe the person is easy to impress, or quite the opposite? Perhaps they’re having a bad day? Chasing values that you have no control over at all is generally not the best idea.

Like Ernest Hemingway once said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

If you must impress someone, impress yourself.

pop-up ego

After years of training, trying to keep your ego in check, you think you’ve nailed it. You’ve become a calmer person and stopped taking everything personal. Difficult to measure the intangible ego, but you feel confident in saying your ego is tiny. Even contemplating the chance, you got rid of your ego altogether.

Until a situation presents itself where suddenly the ego pops up as if it never left. Hello, darkness, my old friend. Like some commercial real estate that’s been vacant for the longest time and almost overnight, a retailer decides to set up (a pop-up) shop. It doesn’t take long to figure out what’s at play. The adrenaline you feel when somebody in traffic breaks unexpectedly and a collision seems imminent. The visceral reaction that lets an adrenaline shot ring out in your body. The sequel to your life: “the ego returns”. This time it’s back with a vengeance.

The trick isn’t to try to suppress the ego. The trick is to actively look for more ego evoking situations to train responses better.