Some sentences are more bitter than others, and a sentence like “nice guys finish last” is one of them. How tempting it is to believe that when people don’t treat you the way you wish to be treated. Holding a belief like that may protect you against a few jerks, but at the cost of fulfilling, meaningful relationships you could otherwise build.
This Veteran’s Day I was chatting with an old friend. She was telling me about how she saw one professor treating her grad and PhD students like crap in the lab, and how that was frustrating to witness, because those students were good students, and they didn’t deserve such treatment. “You don’t have to be mean to be respected,” she said.
Maybe the professor thinks this is the best way to prove that she deserves authority. That’s fine if you’re in charge of a research lab and would like things done in a particular way, and to do so with (and out of) fear and manipulation is certainly a quick way to go about it. But fear is not the same as respect, and the moment a better opportunity presents itself for the people you work with, that control you so deeply held will slip away as they all get the hell away from you.
My friend was talking about the professor, but the comment stuck with me. I was just starting to get frustrated with what I perceived as people taking advantage of me — something that bothers me more and more as I get older. They don’t respect me, I thought. I need to teach them a lesson.
I stopped myself then and there, but it’s easy to see how a perception like that can quickly spiral out of control.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of entitlement and feel that everybody is obligated to treat me with respect and kindness — the world doesn’t owe me anything — but at the same time, I don’t want to be a doormat. How do I walk that balance?
The conversation moved on from there, but it’s still in the back of my mind.
“Did you call her out on this? [the professor?]”
“Wesley, I need a recommendation letter from her!”
What a complicated world. I would have done the same.