Hell is other people

I’ve got to stop waxing philosophical – last week Camus and I were butting heads and this week I find myself tortured by Sartre. I don’t fancy myself conversant on either but apparently they are fascinated by me.

I prefer my personal philosophy – “The One True Way.” However, despite its catchy title and obvious superiority to all that came before, I can’t get anyone to buy into it – not even my spouse, who insists on arguing its fine points. Sigh – I have resigned myself to the reality that “The One True Way” is too good for lesser mortals. But its time will come! And then I will take over the world!!!

But I digress…hell

Simplifying Sartre to the point where he’s going to thump me – there’s consciousness, our awareness of our Self: and then there’s the Other, beings or object that are not self. Because of the nature of things (Sartre now damns me to hell for eternity…) Self needs Other to prove its own existence. Therein lies the problem.

Now let’s shift to my office. It’s an ordinary office with the usual mix of mostly ordinary and a smattering of extraordinary people. We manage the usual mix of projects and tasks, relying on each other to produce various bits and pieces – resulting in the desired outcome. That’s a lot of Selfs and Others inter-relating, proving our own existence, validating our actions, motives, methods, etc. Basically, we work together well because we know each other, who’s good at what, who can be depended on for this and who for that. Of course there are minor conflicts, issues and glitches that must be worked out from time to time,  but generally, it’s all very ordinary.

Enter the Consultant, brought in to deliver a one-off project. Consultant brings their self – a new Other.  My Self is, in turn, a new Other for them. Consultant communicates their needs. I listen to consultant and satisfied I have heard them, provide Resource (another Other.) Soon there is trouble. Resource is not providing Consultant with what they need. Consultant is not happy. I listen to consultant again, and once more satisfied I understand their needs, update Resource and leave.

Repeat this cycle half a dozen times. Consultant, Resource and Self are all unhappy. Emails fly! Project is in jeopardy! Communication break down! Resource goes home so their self can have a more positive experience with another Other. Self is left with slightly enraged Other and experiences mild rage at Other in return.

At this point what you really want is an all out cat-fight, just to let off steam, just to prove how right you are and how unreasonable they are. Except of course Other’s self is in exactly the same position. And everyone knows cat-fights are stupid unless you’re being videotaped in a bikini and in a large vat of mud. And getting mud on is so much easier than getting it off.

hell2Upon reflection, perhaps when Other was communicating their needs, attempting to do so clearly and succinctly to the best of their ability, what Self heard was something very different, despite listening intently and carefully. Self gave Other what Self believes to be the correct resources for what Other described. But what if Other needs a different resource, but is unable to describe it because this is a new type of project and Other does not possess the jargon to describe their true needs? Uh oh. Self must admit some culpability for not accurately assessing Other’s true needs. Self hates that! Self prefers to be 100% right 100% of the time, despite repeated evidence to the contrary. The project must not fail because Self and Other can’t reflect off each other.

Everything will be fine – the problems are not insurmountable and everyone really does want to work together. It’s a molehill, not a mountain. The project will be delivered to spec and on time now that the true needs have been identified. But I bow my head to Sartre and grumble, “Hell is other people!”

Published by Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

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