Performance enhancement

August 6, 2013

I don’t mean steroids, I don’t mean Viagra, I don’t even mean clear kinds of enhancing like padding a resume or plagiarism or exchanging favors in the form of money, referrals, publicity, etc.  The discussion of the A-Rod case got me thinking of people who “know what they’ve got and they know how to use it” in a more subtle way.  (That’s a variation on the lyrics from a song I think is called “My Baby Loves Lovin'”:  “She’s got what it takes and she knows how to use it.”)

I mean something partway between bullying and manipulation.  I think a version people may recognize is when you’re sharing some food with someone else, and you’re dividing the last bit and deciding who gets what and you get a sense of what piece or part the other person wants you to choose, even though they are telling you it’s up to you, that the choice is yours.

Some people pick up on those kinds of signals in other contexts, too.  There are people who are are really loud and pushy about giving them, while there are these others who are really receptive to such signals.  Clearly, if a receptive person knows what they want to do anyway, it shouldn’t matter, but if the other person can get them to see things (including political issues or policy choices) their way, it becomes confusing.  Then the best mechanism for dealing with it that I know is awareness that it is going on — and seeing the psychically loud and pushy person for who they are, that is, a person who engages in this, usually, in my experience, for their own profit.

I don’t think even if I called out the people in my life who do this (and there are a number) they would necessarily stop — I don’t think that’s who they are either.  I think some of them believe this is fair play, others are too emotionally damaged to accept how things would play out if they didn’t use such tools.

My frustration is less about their ill-gotten gain, if we even want to see the benefits they accrue in that light, it’s more that, since they don’t have the assets that would have suited them for doing what they’re now in a position to do because they engaged in this technique of psychic manipulation (or predation), they can’t really be helpful in the role they’ve taken.  It could be manager of a project, it could be some other leadership position or a position of influence, it could be the volunteer who takes responsibility for bringing the flowers to a potluck — my point is that the results will be suboptimal.

On the other hand, the universe does not require optimal results.  I don’t think that’s what life’s all about, figuring out how to optimize everything according to some human measure of efficiency and success.  I think many situations are better seen as our classrooms for learning about ourselves, others, how we relate to others, how we relate to the world and to the universe.  Here, I think what I’m critiquing is actually a classroom for the pushy person’s learning the limitations of what they can achieve this way and for me learning the limitations of what I can do about it, even if others get hurt by what’s going on.

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2 Responses to “Performance enhancement”

  1. Matthew Brooks Says:

    Hmm, I know some people like this too. I think, for one, you may be projecting your self-conscious awareness of said manipulation onto them. In other words, I don’t think it is altogether conscious for many people. It’s just how they’ve come to learn to ‘get what they want’.

    For some people it probably is (more) self-conscious. They are who we would call psychopathic. In any case, I think the important thing to remember is that the strongest (and most influential) among us are good and honest, because if you were strong enough to afford to be good why would you be anything else? In that sense, this type of manipulative thinking is a deficiency, weakness.

    >my point is that the results will be suboptimal.

    This is entirely true, in theory. I say in theory because –

    >On the other hand, the universe does not require optimal results.

    Because this is how the universe is meant to be. What else? “God didn’t make no mistake”.

    It’s not always simple or clean or idealised, but that’s life.

    Would not a purely optimal model in theory be a foregone conclusion? It is somewhat paradoxical, but I think, perhaps, the degree to which we feel at all is the degree to which we’ve suffered.

    On the other hand, within the context of the universe/world, there are periods of time when things are more balanced, healthy, optimal, etc., and this isn’t one of them. As things progressively unravel, the concomitant costs increase, until the limit is reached, and they give way to a new, more stable age.


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