Originally posted on my personal Facebook.
I was told on two separate occasions that I have what people called an attitude problem. One was suggested, other was blatant. Either way, these happenings have sent me into quite a deep pit of anxiety. The reason is actually very simple: social interactions have clouded the entirety of my life, and the prospect of it getting in the way of my career scares the shit out of me. To a socially awkward being with little to no personal relationships, career means everything to me. Now, there is a risk that I’m not even good enough to function professionally. Jeezus.
This is arguably the hardest thing I’ve ever shared, but here goes.
I have an attitude problem
It is probably best to start the writing by stating the separate occasions that begins this journey of ugly self-doubt. As I’ve said, there were two; they happen in the same environment, in which I spend 80% of my time. I hate name-dropping and I think telling the story even without them would be highly suggestive, so I’ll mask them the best I can.
(ASOIAF version of what happened)
I worked as a steward for the Wall. I was assigned to assist two Maesters. One of the Maester I had worked with for awhile, while other had only recently been transferred to the Wall. Maester #1 wanted to make sure that what he’s doing is coherent with Maester #2, so he asked me to assist both Maesters. The Lord Commander gave me a clear brief: only to assist both. I did what I was told and served both Maesters and do exactly as I was told to by the Maesters.
For some reasons, I felt that Maester #2 was a little hard to work with. Most of it would probably because I have prepared a lot of things with Maester #1 which I tried to communicate to Maester #2, but no Maesters were the same. Maester #2, however, didn’t say his objections directly about my way of communicating.
Instead, he would say, “Well, you should sort the quills.”
“B-but, I’m not supposed to …. ”
“You wouldn’t be a steward forever, right? You’ll eventually go to Oldtown, too. Just sort the quills.”
“ … Okay.”
So I did. I did what I was told. Apparently, it offended him that I did the job. Either that, or he was offended that I tried to mold him to the rigid standards that is of Maester #1. I thought that was why I assisted them both in the first place. There are specific methods for quill-sorting, I thought. Maester #1 and I have prepared it. Maester #2 won’t take it. He was, after all, a famed Maester in Oldtown. He’d know better, right?
I only knew that Maester #2 was offended when I was summoned by the Lord Commander. There have been a lot of complaints, he stated. I thought it was about the Rangers. Some of them have voiced their objections that I got in the way of them and Maester #2 (who was in charge of counsel to them) just a day before. But Lord Commander continued that Maester #2 had been deeply offended and wanted to continue his quill-sorting and counsel without any stewards. I hope you learned from this, said the Lord Commander. I do, said I, I learnt a lot.
The only thing that ran on my mind afterwards was, however, I can never be a Maester when a famed Oldtown Maester has voiced an objection towards me. My head was heavy.
Since the occasion, Maester #2 ran solo. I stayed with Maester #1. One day, I received a terrific news: I’ve been rewarded for an apprenticeship in Oldtown. I had applied for a long time, and I was too happy to start preparing for my leave. Time was limited, and I have to do way too many things at once. I had to notify the Lord Commander’s steward (LCS, you might say), a senior of mine; I had to send ravens; I had to sort the new quills; I had to assist counsel before daybreak.
I seek for the LCS, but couldn’t find him. I found another steward, who was equally a senior but was not in charge. I informed him about the news and where to find the LCS. He said, just leave a note. Good idea, I thought, I had to take care of the ravens and quills and waiting would not finish anything.
I went to the steward’s desk. Bringing no quills of my own, I took his. I took out a scrap of parchment that I had, my only one. I was clouded with anticipation and wrote what I thought was most efficient. That there’s an invitation, I asked to be excused from my current responsibilities, and please inform me once he received the note. Then I realized: I wrote with the wrong ink. It was the death ink; the one traditionally used to deliver obituaries. Ah, hmm, maybe this way the LCS would think that the letter was of grave importance? Well, I have to tend the ravens now, thought I. I ran and thought little of it.
A day later, I was summoned to meet the LCS. Yay, we could finally discussed my leave, I thought. To my stupid surprise, my leave was only 5% of the conversation. He said that he couldn’t guarantee anything because it would be up to Lord Commander himself, who would be back from his ranging in a couple of days. He then grimly said, I want to ask you something.
Whatever you want, I said.
This, he handed out my note.
Why would you write it in ceremonial ink, he accused.
“I-I … I’m sorry. I was in a hurry, I took your quill …”
“But why the ink?”
“I realized it, but I thought I had no parchment left, and … ”
“You could’ve written in the back.”
I kept my silence. It would be unwise to start a fire.
“And that’s not even the end of it. Why do you ask me to inform you? Who in seven Hells are you? Why don’t you inform me instead of leaving a rude note on my desk?”
The LCS then went on about how he couldn’t always be on his desk, and I should’ve made an appointment like others do. Meanwhile, I drowned at the fact that my way of making appointment apparently upset him.
“I couldn’t make up my mind on whether you’re incredibly rude or incredibly stupid.”
“I’d say stupid,” I apologized.
“That’s the thing, you have an attitude problem.”
I said nothing in my defense both occasions. I’m not the authority; I tried to listen. Besides, you don’t decide if you have an attitude problem. Others do. Also, it’s a falsification. You always started out with: I don’t have an attitude problem. There are then claims, twice in a row, that you do. Then suddenly, bam. Everybody agrees that you have an attitude problem.
Anyway, it was not the end of the second story. Said offended party later added:
“I was very mad at first, I even tore your note. I then realized that you probably didn’t understand, so I summoned you here to talk. I know you; I helped train you. You are intelligent. You might have a high IQ, but I doubt your EQ. You should probably read about EQ and learn from it. I hope this served as a lesson for you because I want you to grow and be a better person. You know what, let’s have you present what you’ve read 3 weeks from now.”
So after the second occasion, I spent the whole day feeling so miserable. I had my EQ doubted by somebody who knows me only in professional basis. That is, come to think of it, a very codescending judgment. Yet again, I’m not in a position to talk back, neither should I. As insulting as it was, what he said is a great input and I’m all for self-development, even when it involves pseudoscience.
Here’s the thing about “I hope you learn from this.” You don’t need to remind me. I identify myself first and foremost as a student. That’s all I do, learn. Once, I researched my MBTI type and it agrees that INTJs are most passionate about taking classes more than any other types about anything else. It’s written.
I strive all my life to be the best student as I can. I started out chasing ranks, and ended up caring less about it and more about personal standards. Along the way, I’ve developed this one unshakeable value: efficiency. It’s the one thing I can’t sacrifice. Apparently, self-efficiency tends to backfire in mannerisms.
Dear LCS, you are not the first to complain. I have been called weird, impolite, odd. Even if my family, I’ve been pigeonholed as the “smart, accomplished one”. I was just back from my first regional film festival, and rather than asking if I had a good time, all my parents wanted to know was if I won anything. Which clearly, I didn’t. So the conversation stopped without them knowing that my film was a finalist among with 5 other gorgeous films, handpicked from 90+ others; that this festival has been home for me for two years and I’ve had the time of my life. I’ve had my humane dimensions shred and tossed to the ground ever since I was in grade school. My family doesn’t care about my personal traits. It has always been professional with me. When I was a child, my family was my whole world.
So when they don’t care, why should I?
I hope you’re not too disappointed that I wrote another note instead of a full-fledged PowerPoint presentation. I have meant this to be a draft, but I can’t help it: text has always been my strongest medium. Besides, I have to face quite a scrutiny for my thesis tomorrow so I’m not sure if I can handle two meltdowns in a day, so I hope you forgive my cowardice. Again, you made me do the presentation to make sure that I learn something. I hope this meets your objective all the same.
I see how you are concerned by my simple-mindedness, but I can assure you that I’m not the only simple-minded professional out there. You must have heard how brash Ahok was with the slum residents. Some might call it a blunder, but for task-oriented people like he and I, the risk of being hated is all worth it as far as we have the best intentions in mind.
I am learning. It is just not my default setting to be compromising. I have several issues. I’m task-oriented, have a short attention span, and am a forgetful klutz. It doesn’t help that I now have a reputation of being bad-mannered (thanks). The only thing I can do is to take practical notes of the things I’ve done wrong and stay away from those. When I erred differently, I took another note. When it comes to nuanced interpersonal communication, I’m nothing but a trained dolphin. It doesn’t come as naturally for me as having concrete objectives, an achievement to strive for, not that I expect people to understand.
- I cry 90% of the time watching films which features growing up, old people, animals, love, and other things most people don’t even consider sappy.
- I’m my family’s emotional dumpster and mediator.
It’s one thing to have empathy and another to be skillful at communicating it. I specifically fail to understand how emotions should have a place in professional communication, and how it needs to be expressed in such a subtle, sardonic way that I can’t grasp. How is anything indirect, especially in professional setting, efficient? If I didn’t mind rudeness (like you telling me I lack empathy), should others?
I am deeply irked when people assume that I put intellect above everything and think of myself as a supreme intellectual. I don’t. I think that intelligence is bare necessity, and honesty is the one to put forth. However, do I cut people when they simplify me as such? Surprise, I don’t. Listening helps me to learn and I can always write later.
Learning something new
What I carried away from those two unpleasant occasions is that subtlety in communication is necessary. Wow, how naive. Geez, this is why I won’t ever be an ideal diplomat. Another thing is that I need to learn … about EQ?
I did some research on it before deciding on a book to buy. I have to say, what I found is underwhelming. It’s too general, whereas I need something practical. It is mainly vague theories which are not even that well-acknowledged among psychologists. Besides, what I need is to have a good grasp on who I am and how I operate before resorting to any advice. Here’s another thing: there aren’t even any advice.
EQ, in whichever model, is focused on emotion management. Perceiving them, using them, understanding them, and managing them. Honestly (although I might have a self bias), I have no problem with these. The wrong I did has very little to do with EQ.
My first err was a miss in perception, yes, but it was not in perceiving emotion. It was in perceiving words in a professional context, in which I assume that every word are seriously meant and was not in any way passive-aggresive (I was very wrong). My second err was caused by lack of attention span which results in mispriority and lack of phrasing finesse. Come on. Should I test my EQ in any way?
Anyway, what do help me is Jungian/MBTI/Keirsey, which I’ve researched for more than 2 years by now. It really does help with self-knowledge and development. I can’t argue that I need to develop myself, but how far can I go, really? There has always been two ends in the personality spectrum: task-oriented vs. people-oriented, introverted vs. extraverted, etc. It’s common knowledge that we have only one point in the spectrum and that we can’t please everyone. We also can’t be free of mistakes.
I am trying to be the least offensive as I can, I promise you. I’m just saying it’s ridiculous to expect me to be pleasing. I’m not that person; but my beloved sister and some of my best friends are. However, when you need somebody honest to finish the job, call me.
I didn’t lie when I say this is the hardest thing I’ve ever shared, and I’ve shared even my struggle with religion. This shit is very hard for me to reveal. I’m quite insecure about my career prospects for some reasons. I used to think that it will be my everything. Being pigeonholed as such a young age, I thought I’d grow up having no friends. I was proven wrong. School has been a sanctuary for me, I’ve met the best friends I so prized. Teachers have been my parent figures. I can’t express enough how grateful I am of meeting these people that stick by me and decide that I am more than my grades.
Friends, I can’t thank you enough for the reassurements and perspective. Especially my film girls who was there when I shared my anxiety post these two occasions. I can’t do this alone.
I decided to post this as I think a lot of people go through the same hardship. It’s tough to find the balance between being the healthiest, best version of yourself and pleasing others. Some of my friends say that I seem to “have it together”, but truth be told, I’m far from it. It’s them that keeps me going, and I hope I can offer the same support.