Strengths as Weaknesses

«That guy could sell a refrigerator to an eskimo.»

One thing that I was happy to learn was … to ignore what people say and watch what they do. It’s good advice in general (by Andrew Carnegie IIRC), given that people can justify anything. And, yeah, it also applies to conversations with oneself. One is usually the first person who is fooled by oneself.

But recently I saw the damage being able to fast-talk can do to that person in the long run.

Without going into the details, I think this person is very skilled in finding explanations and excuses for failed projects. It’s always no problem to correct something and there is always a(nother) reason why it did not work out as planned. And a kind of ingratiating agreement to criticism with the assertion that the issues will be fixed.

That kind of behavior can work a long time, esp. if that person works in projects with others and switches projects frequently. It took me seeing this person in two projects until I noticed the behavior (go suspicious of the fast-talk in the first project, confirmed the suspicion in the second project).

When this fast-talk became devastating for the person was during a project this person had to do on his own. While he did come up with the usual («good») excuses and explanations, it did not change the fact that the project was rather weak. And if the assessment of the work is done accurately — with the scientific quality criteria of being objective, reliable and valid — the best excuses do not work anymore.

The regrettable thing is that the person’s ability — being able to fast-talk — prevented him from learning from the two earlier projects. I am pretty sure the first person he convinced was himself After all, the fast-talk would not have worked this way if he did not believe himself. And so there was no need to learn and improve, to become better.

In this way, a strength became a weakness and I think it can happen with any strength that prevents learning.

Hmm, I am reminded of a female PhD student I met years ago who had a similar strength. She had an appointment with her (male) advisor and told me she had to go home first to change into her «come-and-fuck-me-boots» (her expression, roughly translated). He was easier to manipulate and did more for her when she dressed up this way. And she was after that executive help (the advisor should solve problems for her), not instrumental help (showing her how to do it on her own). I still find that approach strange, not only that someone is manipulated this way(1), but also that someone would impede the chance to improve. Especially considering that even augmented beauty is fleeting. It might provide a lot of benefits in the short time, but in the long run you end up without well-developed skills, and — when it is youth and beauty — without much at all.

And even if the strength remains over ones lifetime, what kind of life do you have if one strength overshadows everything else? When you can talk people into anything (until they notice what you do) — but use that skill only to find excuses?

A well-rounded life striving for excellence seems to be more worthwhile.


(1) Speaking from experience: A female student tried it in a verbal exam a decade or so ago. I tried my best to ignore the disgust I felt. Not because I do not appreciate female beauty, a former partner loved dressing up and she had the body and clothes to do so. Very enjoyable. But it was unprofessional for the student in that setting — and insulting to think I could be manipulated this way.