It is no secret that people primarily trained in technical knowledge often belittle other kinds of knowledge. Specifically, people skills are considered of low importance. The media is also famous for glorifying people who excel at their profession and are rude to everyone around them. (The main character of the American TV show “House” is a current example.) This is a mistake.

The world turns out to be a lot more complicated than most calculus problems. Clear-cut answers are hard to find. So, when a highly competent, technically-oriented person tries to apply rigid logic to interpersonal situations, the results can be disastrous.

Consider the following generalization: people like to be praised. But, try praising three different people and you might get three different reactions. The first person may thank you, as you would expect. The second person may consider your comment as patronizing. (“Who does she think she is to offer praise?”) The third person might get suspicious, questioning your motive. (“Is it a compliment before an insult? Does this person want something?”) And yet, all three would probably agree with the generalization that people like to be praised.

Before getting to the point that other kinds of knowledge can be praised, humility is needed. An acceptance that mistakes will be made is essential, too. Hopefully, this will lead to a forgiving environment, where everyone can concentrate on making the present and future better and not worry so much about what has happened in the past. Life is too short to be right about the technical stuff and wrong about everything else.

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