Monday, August 17, 2009

Face It. You're Not That Important

It's hard to recognize your unimportance. We're all very very important to ourselves. Critical, even. Watch a couple episodes of Bridezillas and it becomes abundantly clear how extraordinarily self-centered people can become with only a shadow of an excuse (I'm the Bride. You're the Bridesmaid. SERVE ME.

While it makes for entertaining television, the truth is we walk around the world as the center of our own universes, and therefore see everything from the ME lens. Bad things happen only to ME. *I* am never just collateral damage - someone intentionally tried to hurt ME. And, perhaps the most annoying in my life today: Pay Attention to ME. 

I'm SWAMPED at work these days. Beyond swamped. But part of my job is interfacing with various constituents in the market. Partners. Reporters. Analysts. PR people. Consultants. Designers. I live in my inbox. Clearly, there are times when I like to delegate my job. For example, these days I am sending invitations to meetings for dozens of people (not to be confused with my wedding invitation management - dear goodness). So, I have asked one of my consultants to do the email sending. She is someone with an official title who typically would be the person sending these emails. It's like getting an invitation from someone's administrative assistant to a meeting, rather than the executive herself. 

Usually this happens smoothly. But, someone's hackles were raised. "I don't get emails directly??" was the reply. 

Now, presumably if you were an extremely important person, your administrative assistant would be screening our petty little emails anyways. He or she would never bother to get annoyed by getting an invitation from a similarly administrative individual. 

If you were a secure, happy person, you might think "wow, they are inviting me to something" and evaluate the invitation and respond accordingly. If you were feeling "networky", you'd copy me on the reply email, and send a nice note like "Great to hear you're doing X. I look forward to seeing you."

But, if you're insecure, the email from the administrative person must mean that you - and you alone - were singled out to be communicated by this second-tier individual. Or at least, you're in a group of similarly unimportant people, the company of whom you prefer not to keep. You come at the communique from the perspective that no one would treat an "important" person this way, and thus you must be unimportant. 

Of course, by reacting so poorly, the person looks petulant. And I am forced to quell his angst by directly emailing him and apologizing for the perfectly respectful email. And frankly, he has gone down a rung on my list of folks I'll reach out to again. Which, ironically, means he's even less likely to get a direct email from me the next time. 

I love self-fulfilling prophecies. They make me feel like the world is logical. 

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