Mar 042016

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Dr. Earl R. Smith II, PhD


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?

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.

As a side comment, it always amazes me that it always seems to add up to ten; as if the world is organized in such a way that things parade around in groups of ten. Well, to be fair, sometimes they seem to parade around in groups of five. I’m not sure if any of these purveyors of negativity even suspect how intellectually insulting such slavish tendencies toward symmetry are but I can tell you that it’s a clear signal of intellectual weakness on the part of the author. Stronger minds say what they have to say and whatever it adds up to is simply a random occurrence.

So what’s the alternative? Well maybe the following table will help?

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Positively Positives

Don’t Be Unprepared Be Prepared
Don’t Go Casual Dress Appropriately
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions Remember, you are gathering information as well as providing it.
Don’t Use Clichés Be genuine
Don’t Trash Your Current Employer Focus on your future not your past
Don’t Be Fake The real and authentically who you are
Don’t Chit Chat Focus your comments and questions on what’s important
Don’t Be Evasive Be direct about your interests, concerns and who you are
Don’t Talk Money If the question of money comes up, let the interviewer set the agenda
Don’t Just Walk Away Always remember that it’s a human being you’ve been talking to. This is a person with whom you may develop a long-term relationship. Treat them accordingly both during and after the interview.

So let me turn to the article and let’s look at a couple of quotes. Here’s the first one:

While building three successful businesses I’ve had the opportunity to conduct over a thousand interviews. Let me share with you 10 common faults I’ve identified from that experience. Avoid them if you really want to get the exciting job of your dreams.

Did you catch the stark comparison between the view that the author has of himself and the view that of their audience? The former is shrouded in images of success while the latter is covered with suspicions of ineptitude. But the real sleight-of-hand is in the last sentence. The author is going to tell you what you might be doing wrong but doesn’t intend to tell you how to do it right.

Let’s move on to a second quote:

So, why is it that so many prospective employees don’t seem to grasp the essentials of getting the interviewer to fall in love with them and make a commitment to hire them?

A reasonable question might be, why is a purveyor of love potion #9 so intent on making the individual they are trying to sell the snake oil look so small and incompetent? I’m willing to entertain the suggestion that performance during an interview will help clarify whether you are a good fit for the job you’re interviewing for. But the author seems to completely ignore that issue. In the article, it’s not a question of a good fit, it’s a question of falling in love. Any of you had the experience of having it feel so right on the way in and head south shortly thereafter? I rest my case.

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