Help! I’m a Jerk but I Don’t Want to Be
I have a problem, and it is me. I have always been opinionated, compulsively sharing unfiltered truths.
The problem comes in my various board and volunteer roles. I approach these meetings as though I’m trying to stick it to the man. In a meeting, I said, “Since it seems I’m the only person in the room who has closely read the budget, I want to say that this proposal will add a position at a time when our organization is in crisis and there is no plan to pay for it.”
It was all true, and a year or so later, the organization did face a financial crisis that resulted in furloughs and layoffs. I was right. However, everyone thinks I’m an ass, even if I’m an ass who read the budget and told the truth.
I need help with managing my reaction to a feeling that there is a truth not being shared, and communicating the truth that will be helpful to the decision-making process in a way that doesn’t point out that I’ve done work that other people haven’t. How can I create consequences and/or incentives to help me do this?
— Julie, Baltimore
I love being right. It’s a great feeling. You clearly enjoy that feeling too. While there is nothing wrong with confidence and competence, there is something wrong with constantly feeling the need to demonstrate superiority at the expense of others. I urge you to divest yourself from liking being right more than doing the right thing or being collegial. There are ways to point out truths that don’t involve shaming people dedicated to a common, admirable goal. It’s called diplomacy! Try it!
If it’s clear other people didn’t do the proverbial reading, it is not your job to point that out. Their lack of preparation will absolutely speak for itself.
So many people valorize themselves as truth-tellers when really, they’re just jerks. Don’t be a jerk. You’re not a bad person. You’re just human. And, fortunately, self-aware. Now you need to extend that self-awareness into self-control. The consequences of your behavior are clear. Your reputation has already been harmed. If you don’t change, you will alienate people with whom you should be allied.
You are accomplished and talented but you are not the only person in Baltimore with your skill set. It would behoove you to remember that and to care about the dignity of others or soon, you will be all alone, prepared, intelligent, full of truth, with no one to tell it to.