Don’t Do What?

Dr. Earl R. Smith II, PhD

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Mentoring is about helping a person to reclaim their life and find the true path – the one that they were made to travel. One of the major differences between mentoring my way and how many practice either mentoring or coaching is the agenda of the person rendering aid. I have encountered so many who aspire to such a role but who seem to be engaged in an exercise of self-validation and a demonstration of superior wisdom. These promulgators of postulated preeminence are easy to spot. They have a packaged approach – a one-size-fits-all perspective. They proscribe much like your typical sixth grade teacher does. “Now children, don’t do that and never say that!”

One of the most astonishing imbalances, when it comes to those who dispense advice, is the imbalance between proscription and prescription. If you read most of what they offer, you are certain to become paranoid and carry a tremendous load of uncertainty into anything you attempt. How many articles have you read that start out “Ten Things Not To Do During…”? One gets the distinct impression that the people who write these articles are looking at the world out of the wrong, posterior orifice.

Basic psychology tells us that the easiest way to sabotage your own interests is to think about ways that you sabotage your own interest. Quick, for the next twenty seconds don’t think of an elephant. See what I mean?

A disgraced US Vice President added a phrase to the lexicon which seems appropriate here. These Nattering Nabobs of Negativism offer a view of the world that is consistently looking down. Their commandments are the clearest evidence of how they view the world. Darkly!

Good Intent?


Got This Feeling?

I’m sure that most of these purveyors of negativism see themselves as good Samaritans. I’m equally sure that they see what they deliver as helpful advice bordering on wisdom. But they are so self-involved that they don’t see the impact of the tone of their message. They’re so involved with the idea that they are doing good that the idea that they’re doing harm is a complete nonstarter for them. What do they say about the road to hell? Oh yes, that it’s paved with good intentions.

I recently came across one of these “Ten Not To…” articles. It was purporting to give advice on how to act during a job interview. As I read it, I could imagine the anxiety building up in a reader who was preparing for an important interview. I could see the brow furrowing and the gut tightening. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

I don’t believe it does any good to load people up with negative proscriptions. The presumption that somehow this amounts to doing good is offensive to me. In my mentoring work, I have seen many examples of people who have been damaged by this kind of presumption. Undoing the damage is not a pleasant experience and not one that is accomplished quickly. I found the article so reflexively negative that I decided to provide an alternative view.

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