Thursday, September 8, 2011

Marginalizing Your Peers

I'm reading a blog by S. Iannarino, in an entry titled "No Garbage In, No Garbage Out." Now, Iannarino's material is a little above the fold compared to some sales and marketing pieces, but it is still more pop psychology than rocket science. Among the pithy aphorisms and exhortations, Iannarino repeats a few recommendations I've heard often. Just as often, they give me pause.

One of his exhortations is "avoid negative people." Now, on the surface, it seems quite reasonable, even almost natural. An uplifting environment and the comfort of intelligent, positive peers is definitely better. But it has always bothered me a little bit that what the pop-positive-psych-preachers propose to get there, is essentially that we abandon those most in need just so we can protect a personal pie-in-the-sky mental state.

Think that's too extreme? Am I being too negative?

What does this recommendation say about how you should widows, orphans, poor, under/unemployed, sick, those coworkers nobody really knows well, or some minority class of the disenfranchised? No, I'm not writing here of abstract groups who see themselves as victims, but those real people that you contact that actually have stresses and struggles. Their coping mechanisms don't always compensate.

What this advice says, essentially, is "Let them go to Hell, so I can pretend I'm in Heaven."

Selfish rule making like this is one of the reasons why a Sales and Marketing mentality is so bereft of ethical standards, and why honesty, transparency, and trust are so much harder to come by in the business world. By narrowing their own focus based upon their own personal dogma, they marginalize their neighbors.

They are also probably discard the wisdom of more realistic minds. A study I read suggested that depressive tendencies in kids is usually associated with a more accurate self-assessment, than of more up-beat peers.

Put another way, knowledge isn't always as uplifting as it is made out to be. The fruit of the tree of knowledge may have been a way of opening the eyes to good and evil, but it also had the effect of excluding its consumers from a garden of ignorant bliss. Ignoring people who complain may be wise; but conversely you may also be ignoring their wisdom.

There is a place for assertiveness when dealing with people who have trouble coping. But it is not assertive to avoid people just because they challenge your world view, force you to consider risks, account for costs, or consider consequences. No, that is far closer to passive-aggressive cowardice.

There is no particular place in Hell reserved for those who choose to close their own ears to other's sorrows. As Jesus said in the Book of Luke (10:25-29), empathy is required for salvation. So if you're a believer who follows this sort of guidance and marginalizes people out of a sense of protecting your personal belief system, your belief isn't a free get-out-of-hell pass. Even if you're not a believer, there's no magikal taboo protection to be had in that sort of positive psychology.

Don't Abandon. Learn to cope with the negativity. Help others to see past their own limitations, and mentoring those who can accept it by teaching them better coping mechanisms.
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