Why You Need to Befriend Angie

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If you don’t befriend Angie, she can wreck you.  And worse, she can cause you to wreck those around you. But, first you have to realize she is part of your organization.  It took me many years to bring Angie into the light, and I’m still working to understand how to work with her.

Angie is my mnemonic for N.G.E., whose favorite line is “Not Good Enough,” and, who can be heard over time telling me, not just “Not” but “Never Good Enough.” She’s part of my inner organization, resides at the conference table of my inner players, although she’s sneaky and prefers to send me inner emails, or whisper when I’m not so strong).  She can be ruthless.  I can get 50 great course evaluations, 4 mediocre, and one telling the dean to fire me. To which of these do you think Angie draws my attention? She’s the velcro strip that holds fast to that one scorching course review. She’s the tape recorder that replays it for me before I drift into sleep.

Angie’s not all bad.  The voice of N.G.E likely takes credit for many of my successes, and I suppose deserves a good share.  She pushed me past the B+ row, past the A- row, and in this age of grade inflation, she’d be whispering-whipping me past the A row, into the plush A+ seats (and, importantly, scolding-shaming me when I didn’t get there). She surely speaks in echoes of my dad – the first generation Scot who wanted – no, was determined that we – all surpass him.  I read about the parents of people like Elon Musk and Elizabeth Taylor and James Jackson (Michael’s father) who drove, drove, drove their kids, and I’m not surprised that they in turn drove, drove, drove themselves…and sometimes others.  We internalize that voice, “you can do better,” it says on its kinder days, but more often smirks, “Not Good Enough.”  And because of that voice, to avoid that voice, we turn it on others.   Others – who we see as, you guessed it – Never Good Enough.  Have you had the N.G.E Boss?  Not just the one at your inner table, inside the organization of you, but the one at the head of your staff room table, whose look, whose voice, whose words, always seem to speak, “Not Good Enough – Never Good Enough.”  So, Angie works at three gosh-darned levels:

  1. The boss stings, because their critical voice (or silence or shrug or raised eyebrows) evokes our inner N.G.E. And we’ve been taught to “take it.”
  2. Our inner N.G.E  can sting; it doesn’t even need external provocation; but such provocation is a pretty sure way to raise up the inner N.G.E.
  3. And we must be careful, because of course we can sting others, bringing their N.G.E into play.  Although I don’t remember passing along my dad’s fiercely high standards, my kids insist we asked, “Why the A-?”  And the truth today is that when I am feeling more critical than usual of a partner, student, client, or my spouse, it’s often because my Angie is on ME about something and my impatience and irritation are on the rise.

So, back to the title, “Why you need to befriend Angie.”  Because she’s on the loose!  Ready to whisper and whip in her wicked way.  She’ll nag, undermine confidence, second-guess, and invite you to pass the buck!

How does one befriend, or be a friend?  First, you notice! Don’t ignore her.  Try it now :-), because I’ll bet she’s probably on you about something you should have done better to prepare for this week, this day, this meeting!  Acknowledge she’s there.  Appreciate that she’s got some good intent in mind — for you to excel in some way.  Then, see if there is any light – in addition to the internal heat she’s offering.  Does she have a constructive insight? Offer her a little compassion and a little curiosity, and I suspect she will be less critical of you and your unsuspecting workers, kids, or spouse.

Tell me (leave a comment):  How crazy does this sound to you?  Crazy people talk to themselves, you know?  But I suspect this is a powerful practice of emotional intelligence — self awareness and self-regulation — in order to

Lead with your best self?