A Dissection of Thin Skin: Failed Perception of Intent

Pop quiz, hot shot.
Someone asks you a clarifying question or offers a suggestion.
Do you assume that…

  1. they require more information or see a possible issue, or…
  2. they’re only asking or saying so just to piss you off?

1 of "12 Angry Men"Too many folks seem to fall into the latter category, and there’s a reason – but not an excuse.

I used to have “thin skin” in middle school (who didn’t, right?) If someone was laughing when I entered the room, obviously it was at me. I outgrew this because I realized that everyone is most concerned with themselves, and that isn’t a bad thing. Even doing something for another person is essentially giving yourself the satisfaction that you made someone else’s day. It’s a wonderful feeling, the knowledge that you were able to do or think of something that they didn’t or couldn’t.

By nature, I’m a problem solver/organizer: an ADHD-fueled jack-of-all-trades with a Master’s Degree in Google Fu and a lifetime’s experience in trial-by-fire. I’m also an extroverted pessimist, among the rarest of social creatures: I observe projects, discern potential problems, and think up solutions. If the glass is half empty – and it usually is, dammit – I will figure out a way to either fill it up or use the glass for something better since it isn’t doing much good here.

Now for the phrase that repeatedly gets me into trouble: “Does anyone have any questions?”

As a matter of fact, YES… I do.

Why wouldn’t you want to hear it since you asked? More to the point, why does anyone become angry or upset that something was inquired or suggested? I can only guess it’s due to perception of intent, that the only reason to ask or offer (other than a lack of understanding or the aforementioned helpful solution) must be to undermine one’s supreme authority or cause a perceived loss-of-face by publicly offering a solution to an unanticipated problem.

EPIC FAIL, my friend.

I DIDN’T ask or offer my suggestion to piss you off; I have far better weapons at my disposal for that.

Captains, coworkers, moderators, managers, coaches, generals, petty officers, drill sergeants… c’mon, guys: aren’t we on the same team? Sure, it’s a competitive world out there, but we choose to feel slighted or unappreciated for our efforts when an obvious question or solution comes up. Wouldn’t it be simpler to put all that aside, fix the frakking problem and move on?

Charles Edward Montague, John Wooden and Harry S. Truman have all been credited with variations on the quote, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Personally, however, I prefer Larry the Cable Guy: “Git-R-Done!”