Why do people think that they will appear superior only if and when another is shown to be inferior? Over and over again I see nice people attacking another, in meetings, in boardrooms, in family conversations and anywhere else that two or more are gathered. The underlying conversation seems to be, “if I outwit you, I am then, indeed, superior. From this feeling of greatness, I get a prize.”
As I observe these conversations, I am always struck with the question “What is the prize?” How does it help you to have put someone down? How does it help you to have pointed out the flaw in the personhood of another? How can you feel stronger by that? What do you gain?
These random moments of meanness, which are so often accompanied by a smile and a nod are quite disconcerting. It is no wonder that people, in general, have difficulty trusting each other. We attack each other for no apparent reason; we launch this attack in public and then herald our superiority over others. I won’t forget standing in a busy airport rushing to a connecting flight and stopping for food, my long time business partner and friend, announced loudly that I was foolish not to carry cash and then angrily threw her cash on the table, as if my personal habit was a philosophical shortcoming that made her re-evaluate our friendship. No such thing happened, what eventually happened is that I re-evaluated our long-time friendship and she is no longer my friend. I did not rid myself of this friendship because of that incident. What happened is that I gradually recognized that my friend often expressed her superiority by touting my perceived inferiority. What a disappointment and a heartbreaker.