Life in WTF's per minute
Well, I have good news: asking yourself “Wait...did that really just happen?!” isn’t a sign that you are losing your mind.
While you probably usually shake your head and shrug off the weirdness of those “OMG! WTF?!” moments, I’m here to tell you that “Ummm....huh? What...?” is a perfectly legitimate response.
It might be easier (read: more convenient - mostly for other people) for you to believe that you are mistaken or overreacting, but if you skip the self-doubt, you’ll find that the answer is very often “Yes. Yes, it really did happen.”
If your What-the-F*ck-O-Meter has hit the red zone and reality belies belief, read on.
Although “multi-talented”, a crazymaker’s particular specialty is gaslighting, i.e. convincing a perfectly normal person that she (or he) is a few keys short of a keyboard.
I once worked with a class-A crazy-maker (TBH, I’ve worked with a quite a few of them, but this one’s narcissism stands out). We’ll call him John*.
One day, a colleague (we’ll call her “Jane**”) asked him for a report-back on a project he was working on for a client of hers.
This is how the conversation went:
Jane: “So, John…how far are you with project X?”
John: “It’s not done.”
Jane: “Um…What do you mean it’s not done?”
John: “I mean that it’s not done.”
Jane: “John! You promised! We committed to Macrame-Makers International* it would be done this week!”
John: “Well, it’s not.”
John: “Jane! What is the lesson in this, Jane?”
Jane: [confused and panic-stricken] “Ummm…?”
John: “The lesson, Jane, is that when I tell you something, don’t believe me!”
Yes, this was a real, actual honest-to-goodness conversation that really, actually, honest-to-goodnessly happened in my direct hearing.
In less than a minute, John made Jane doubt not only her competence, but her judgement and sanity as well.
The real lesson? When you start doubting your sanity, the chances are good that you are dealing with a crazy-maker.
* Name changed to protect the guilty
** Name changed to protect the innocent
***Name changed to protect my career
Looking back, that early conversation should have made John’s gaslighting habit obvious. But it didn’t.
He possessed an extraordinary talent for producing impressive sounding bullsh!t. His language was peppered with phrases like “synergistically innovate on our platform” and “seamlessly deliver bleeding-edge, customer-focussed solutions”. Unfortunately, John lacked the “bandwidth” to do much more than spout garbage.
It was also an office filled mostly with honest people. Nice people. The idea that we had a “bovine-excrement production plant” (aka “bullsh!t factory”) in our midst was too incongruent to take in.
When John confidently held forth with a burst of unintelligible jargon, I’d feel a tiny bit stupid for not understanding what he was on about, and exceedingly eager to avoid putting my “ignorance” on display. My reaction to John was usually: “Eek! I don’t understand what he’s saying. It must be me. He is obviously much cleverer than I am.” I’m willing to bet that several of my colleagues thought this about themselves too. The net result? No-one ever called John out on his crap.
After about two-and-a-half years of this, a new executive joined the team. He was one-part teddy-bear, two-parts cow-pat detector. He eventually encouraged John to move on to greener pastures. Last I heard, John was promoting himself on LinkedIn as a “multipotentialite ”.
The lesson: Put your ego in your pocket and ask the “dumb” question. If the person you’re dealing with can’t express themselves in simple English, they probably don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
What's your strategy for dealing with your What-the-F*ck-O-Meter when Crazymakers make you...well...crazy?