The Arrogance-Humility Balance

Years ago, before the cats came into my life, I read a book. One of many and it was a paperback at that time as it was also pre-Kindle days. The book contained a glaring error. I had never contacted an author before but felt it was an error that needed addressing, so contacted her through her web page. Having your own web page was a new phenomenon at the time. I was cordial and explained why it was an error and why it was important to me. I think I was expecting a, “thank you for bringing it to my attention,” response but what I got was a simple statement which said she didn’t respond to comments when they got personal and I was to never contact her again. I was baffled. Personal? I didn’t know anything about her personally. Never contact her again? What did I do? Never having been asked ever before to refrain from contacting people I was bewildered. I read my message to her over and again. I asked colleagues, friends and family to read the message too as I honestly couldn’t see how I was being offensive at the time. Fortunately, neither could they.

It appears that my offence was my audacity to point out her mistake. How dare I take issue, or criticise anything she had written? She was after all a published author and I was only one of the many minions of unwashed who bought her books. My experience, knowledge and indeed point of view was not relevant to anything she had put on paper. When I reviewed the book I pointed out the error and I received an email from the author headed with the words, “You lied!” She apparently wasn’t thrilled with my review of her book, particularly by my omission in my review, much to her chagrin, that i had allegedly harassed her(!) I was alarmed at receiving such an email at the time, it was pre-cat breeding days and I have since received many strongly worded emails from various unsavoury folk, at the time though I was a young, naive, practicing GP and people didn’t speak to me in such a manor, unless trying to dupe me into prescribing drugs or signing them off work etc..

I was asked not to contact her and yet she had used my personal information I entered into her website to contact me. It was quite a dilemma, so I asked my husband to write back on my behalf stating that according to her wishes I would not contact her but I had the right to express my opinion where I felt appropriate and when you ask someone to refrain from contacting you it’s an unsaid given that you shouldn’t contact them, however as this obviously wasn’t obvious to her, my husband asked her on my behalf not to use my contact information any more.

I use this experience as an example to demonstrate arrogance. Instead of saying, “oops my bad,” or words to this effect, the author chose arrogance over humility. Her literary career flagged somewhat after and I couldn’t help but feel maybe her reluctance to consider her errors, learn and grow had something to do with that.

We all make mistakes. I know I’ve made mistakes. I have written drug charts incorrectly in hospital, I have forgotten to write a letter of referral, send patient information leaflets when I said I would and I have also owned up to not knowing the ins and outs of the fluids used in peritoneal dialysis on the renal wards. Luckily by admitting my shortcomings and that I don’t know I implemented better mechanisms to avoid errors and I learnt things from wonderful people to make me better at my job and value the power of humility.

Arrogance robs you of opportunities to connect with people and improve yourself. It isolates you and puts a barrier between you and those who may enlighten you positively or negatively. We all have bad experiences but arrogance turns any experience into a bad one.

I admire the new breed of Independently published authors because the majority seem humble. They listen and might very well discard what I say, but they listen. They don’t make their own bad PR and hide behind a publisher. Learning to take criticism is valuable as is learning from mistakes if you have the humility to accept them first.

Thankfully this experience was a one-off and I have not had anything similar in the last 7 years since my unfortunate dealings with this author despite reviewing and being candid with my thoughts about many books.

So in summary don’t let arrogance rob you of opportunities that humility will empower you with.

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