Commands should never be given in a commanding tone. A gentleman requests, lie does not command. We are not to assume so much importance, whatever our station, as to give orders in the “imperative mood,” nor are we ever justified In thrusting the consciousness of servitude on any one. The blunder of commanding sternly is most frequently committed by those who have themselves but just escaped servitude, and we should not exhibit to others a weakness so unbecoming – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.
The world is made of rules and we are indoctrinated into them at a very young age. We are very young when we first learn the consequences for not obeying a rule and as we grow older we also learn that abiding by rules can earn us praise and positive feelings.
Rules are necessary for society to function. The basic rules have been with us for centuries and were first handed down in the form of tablets. These rules have formed the basis of our criminal law and exist for good reason.
But what happens when you take that little girls from the school playground, the one that was the teacher’s pet and transplant her to adulthood in the middle of an office? The one that still believes that everyone who plays by the rules will be rewarded and praised and that anyone who doesn’t needs to be reminded of the rules.
I was never a teacher’s pet, but I can feel for that girl/woman.
It is a harsh lesson indeed to realise that just because you played fair and by the rules doesn’t necessarily mean you are rewarded. But that is perfectionist thinking in a nutshell – I am virtuous, I am good, I adhered to the rules therefore a certain positive outcome should follow. Except that discounts human behaviour and the imperfect world in which we operate.
It is equally a difficult lesson for perfectionists to learn the notion that anything less than getting it right is acceptable. You can easily spot that person in conversation, correcting a fact here and a fact there and focusing on accuracy rather than engagement. There are times when correcting a misstated fact is essential to the point that is being made, but there are plenty of other times when the misstatement would have no bearing on the outcome.
It’s time we let getting it right go when it doesn’t really matter. We need to stifle the inner stickler and let other people do it their way. Let the perfectionist go.
There are far better things to put on an epitaph than “he was right”.