Hubris in Training
Vol. 1, No. 08 * 04 May 2009
I’ve come across three issues that took a while for me to manage. They are very personal and difficult to spot because seeing them requires diligent introspection.
These issues are like body odor. Everyone in the room can smell you except you. You don’t seem to be bothered and yet, everyone in the room is uncomfortable.
Here are the pitfalls: Looking good; Better than; and Being right.
Allow me to share these pitfalls with you:
Hubris No. 1: Looking good.
How does this look like? On the physical side, the trainer refuses to get down and dirty even when the situation calls for him to do so. On the interpersonal side, the trainer does all things possible to make himself agreeable and goes all the way to please everyone.
We know that we cannot please everyone in the class. Therefore, learn to accept that in some situations, you may never see eye to eye with someone on certain points that are being discussed. Accept this limitation and apologize if you think you have overlooked some aspects.
If you want to regress and compete, use Hubris No 2. If you want to argue, go to Hubris No. 3.
Either way, you will not be the bringer of positive change.
Hubris No. 2: Better Than.
How does this look like? In public, the trainer says, “I can do a better job than him. If you give him the contract, it’s like your standard has gone to the dogs.”
Situation No. 2: The trainer pulls rank and says, “I am so and so… I am a graduate of X university.” or “This was my position, and I won this. Therefore, you must listen to me.”
When someone plays this card in your class, acknowledge his experience and look for ways to bring him over to your side. I see this happening when there tends to be one in the room who has been there, career wise, longer than I have. I will do my best to win him over and get his opinions.
But I will resist the temptation to look good and be the people pleaser in the room. If I must argue, I will take the argument offline and discuss the issue directly with the person. Perhaps, his objection is not about the issue itself but about ME.
Anyone who may be unsure of himself will play this card. He will be the bully. He will challenge your ideas and class rules. Underneath this challenging person’s façade is insecurity, jealousy, and loneliness.
Hubris No. 3: Being Right.
How does this look like? The trainer says that the participant’s opinion or answer is wrong. The trainer then goes at great lengths to prove that he is right.
Situation No. 2: The participant says, “I’m sorry but I think you are wrong.” A long argument then follows.
People will go at great lengths to prove that they are correct. Why? Because it takes a lot of energy and humility to say, “I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Or perhaps say, “I thinkyou are right.”
Show your sources and allow the other party to declare his source. The debate does not have to end in winning and losing. There is still “win‐win” as an alternative.
Changing opinions and beliefs is difficult. Drawing lines between the inflexible and the resilient is even more challenging. When one says that the position you take is wrong, it pays to listen, no matter how difficult.
Seek shelter from public opinion.
When your training hits a deadlock somewhere, go and reflect on what I have shared. The answers cannot be far away from these three pitfalls.
Oh, one more thing. There is also the other hubris I forgot to mention: the pitfall of hanging on to little information and using it as gospel truth.
Never use ideas that you are not well-read on. Never talk about issues whose angles you do not completely know.
You are a trainer. You are not the slot machine of information. It is okay to say you don’t know everything. And yes, on some occasions, it is okay to say you don’t have a stand on an issue because you know little about it or you have yet to understand the issue better.