There’s nothing wrong with thinking you’re the hero of your own story. That is … As long as you don’t use that as an excuse to be an asshole. But. If you accept this belief to be true, that also means you have to consider that everyone around you ALSO sees themselves as the hero of their own story.
This is important for you to understand. If you want to be successful, you have to see things from other people’s points of view. And when we’re all the hero of our own story, that also means we don’t handle complaints about ourselves very well.
Go ahead, try it if you don’t believe me. Find the first person you see on the 7 train after a Mets game and tell them the Mets suck and you don’t much care for their trendy Nirvana t-shirt either. You’d probably find yourself on the receiving end of a fist sandwich, right?
So why do we think it’s any different when we do the same thing at work? Because we used “nicer” words? Come on. Humans are not as civilized as we’d like to think we are. In terms of Earth’s history, we’re only a fart removed from making fire with sticks.
Never forget that.
What’s a problem to you might not be a problem to the person you’re complaining to. In their mind, they’re the hero, and they’ve done nothing wrong. That means your complaint isn’t going to be heard and acted on in the way you hope if you’re responsible for leading and managing people.
So what are you supposed to do?
I have a few suggestions as to what you can do without complaining, should the need arise and you have to interact with your fellow uncooperative humans:
The first thing you can do doesn’t involve confrontation or complaining at all. Instead, it involves you focusing on yourself.
First because the better you are as a person, I really do believe you can inspire others around you to be better as well.
Humans are herd animals. We take our cues from each other, so take the high road and set the example you want others to follow. This, in turn, could stop the behavior you’re complaining about without ever having to say a word about it directly.
There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be a role model, if anything, we can use a hell of a lot more of them these days. Kanye West is not a role model. He’s an asshole. One who makes great music. There’s a difference between the two. You can enjoy his music without having to put him on a pedestal and follow what he does as a person.
The second thing you can do is remember one of the universal truths of our world: Humans are not rational actors. Never were, never will be. You know how I know Star Trek is a work of fiction? Because if we all had access to a holodeck, the only thing we’d use it for is to fuck every historical hot person we can think in a variety of new and interesting ways. Some that might be worth documenting and sharing with others to try.
If you expect someone to behave a certain way, you better believe that nine times out of ten they’re not going to act the way you think they will. And even if they do! Even if they do, it won’t always be for the reasons you’ve anticipated.
So if you complain to someone about something they’ve done, logically and on paper, it may seem like a good thing to do. Because you’re addressing a problem and, again logically, by addressing that problem you’re going to stop it from happening again in the future.
But that’s not how people work. Instead, If you complain to someone and call them out, you’re just going to make them defensive and resentful. That accomplishes nothing for you AND creates enemies.
And if you want to be a successful human and win the game of life, one of the ways you win is by having the fewest enemies possible.
What You Did to George Lucas
In probably the most significant example of how complaining can create hurt and resentment, instead of solving the problem the complaint was meant to address, I want to direct your attention to George Lucas. Yes. That George Lucas. Because George Lucas doesn’t use the Internet anymore, and it’s all your fault.
You see, when The Phantom Menace came out, George Lucas made the same mistake we all do, and he read the comments online. Granted, this was pre-social media, but I’m old enough to remember that even back in the ‘90s, the comments section on most places were a cesspool on the Internet. And after Phantom Menace came out, the film was hammered on the ‘net for being the worst thing ever made (and in the Internet’s defense, it was.)
I don’t care what revisionist history bullshit there is out there now that says the Star Wars prequel trilogies were good, because they’re not.
That’s just another example of how easily mislead we are as humans. If Buzzfeed says the prequel Star Wars trilogy was excellent, there’s a lot of people out there now who are going to nod their head and go, “You know what? Those films were great. You’re right, Buzzfeed.” No. Stop. They’re awful. And after people saw Phantom Menace and started to attack and criticize George Lucas on the Internet, what do you think he did?
Did he go back and correct the issues people raised about the film in Attack of the Clones? No! Lucas somehow went and made an even WORSE film than The Phantom Menace, so all those complaints on the Internet did nothing to improve the prequel trilogy films.
What those complaints did accomplish was that George Lucas has not used the Internet in almost two-decades. That’s right. Those complaints just drove Lucas away from one of humanity’s most significant achievements. Forever.
Ridiculous, right? But that’s an extreme example of what happens when you criticize people. Maybe the action you criticize stops, but even then, the result is that people will be resentful of you for pointing it out and less likely to listen to you in the future.
Put another way, when you complain to someone about something they’re doing, you don’t get “Rogue One” the next time they act. You get “Attack of the Clones.”