Friday, August 5, 2016

Advice from a life coach: Acknowledging the little people

Publically acknowledging the little people who helped you along the way—especially in writing—is not a good idea. Yes, we know you couldn’t have done it alone, but on the other hand, plenty of other people have done it too and it’s not all that big a deal. Unless you’ve just been elected Pope or somehow convinced Kim Jong-un to renounce his North Korean citizenship and move to Peoria, or something equally remarkable, you don’t have to remark on it. You did it. Fine. That’s enough for all of us.

But thanking the little people? That’s where the real trouble starts. First of all, they probably do not see themselves as the little people, as bit players in the more important narrative that is you, so their first reaction to your acknowledgment will be genuine surprise. Then, for a moment, they’ll appreciate the shout-out until they realize that not only was it an act of self-aggrandizement, but also an act of them-degrandizement. (I know, degrandizement probably really isn’t a word, much less them-degrandizement, but it ought to be.) They probably always thought up till now that you were a little full of yourself but they were willing to put up with you for their own ends, i.e., for your role in the playing out of their narratives. But now that they realize that their narratives mean nothing to you, they will cast you off like baby boomers cleaning the leisure suits out of their storage closet (unless they can actually still squeeze into them, in which case they will hold onto them on the odd chance that they will come back into style someday because, well, doesn’t everything.)

If you really want to do something to thank the little people, leave them alone. They’ll be all the happier for it, and, more importantly, you won’t have to sink to their level and pretend you care about them. It’s a win-win for everyone.



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