Ph for Philosophy – House Syndrome

Last night I had soSRS.HOUSEme frustrating games in ranked, but the most annoying turned out to be, as usual, from my own team. I had a support who constantly critiqued everything I did, and not just my play, but everyone else’s, from top to bottom lane and all the way back. As is typical of these types, no self-critiquing ever issued forth from this support’s mouth, even though he made some pretty significant mistakes that contributed to our loss. Regardless, that wasn’t the real issue. All the commentary he gave was conveyed very politely, so when I proceeded to call him on how annoying, distracting, and condescending it was, the truth reared its ugly head:

“Learn to take advice nicely and you’ll climb up the ladder faster. Don’t have such an ego.”

Way to miss the point, kid. As any person who’s ever had to endure the trial called “public speaking” knows, there’s a component we like to call “delivery” that tends to be extremely important when communicating with people. From a neurological standpoint, this is because humans are semi-rational beings who work off a complex, ever-shifting mixture of emotion and logic. You can have the best advice or counsel in the world, but if you spit it in someone’s face while calling their mother a whore, you’ve sabotaged the possibility of it being successfully conveyed and accepted by the other person. This ruins your vaunted wisdom, as advice’s only value lies in the act of sharing it with someone. The universe doesn’t care if you have all the answers and keep them to yourself. The burden of ensuring that such experience, knowledge, etc., is transmitted successfully lies on your shoulders in the first place, since you have the information and the other doesn’t. You cannot control whether the person on the receiving end will either swallow their own pride and listen to what you have to say or just take the low road and call your mother a whore in kind, but you can control how you transmit it. If you don’t take all practical steps to ensure your end of the telephone line, so to speak, is clear and free of static, you have no right to begrudge the other person’s poor reception of it.

The deeper dilemma in this particular circumstance proved to be this support’s defense of his behavior, in that his advice was indeed very politely conveyed. There was no cursing, swearing, or condemnation in his words. However, he missed the fact that his tone and manner of delivery came across as very patronizing. This is an innocent mistake in and of itself, but he fell when he tried to use his “nice behavior” as a defense. Listen carefully, Internet denizens: not treating someone poorly is not an act of sainthood. It is a given, something that should be done regardless of the circumstances. You are a miserable Pharisee if you think being “nice” to someone gives you brownie points for some magical reason. You should be treating everyone you meet with the respect and kindness they deserve as human beings no matter what you’re doing.

Moving on to more subtle matters, what this support missed was a simple fact: nobody likes a Monday Morning Quarterback, especially a hypocritical one. If you nitpick every last decision someone does, even in good faith, you’re not going to get very far with your audience, least of all when you fail to analyze your own mistakes that they are observing at that very moment. This is not hard to grasp. Furthermore, if someone is taking your words the wrong way, the first step you should take is to consider what you are doing wrong. Tone is very important to human beings from a psychological perspective. The human mind excels to a fault at picking out patterns and reading between the lines. It is your responsibility as the speaker to do as much to control and explain what you’re trying to get across. You cannot let your audience’s minds run free and blame it all on them for not pushing past it.

Here’s the final and most fundamental point I’m trying to make: being right on some technicality, be it your mechanical observations, analysis, or mere basic human courtesy, never excuses all other flaws you might have. This is what I call “House Syndrome,” the self-centered, childish idea that if you’re right about something, nothing else matters. House was a very popular show in its prime, and its titular character has become a cultural icon of the brilliant curmudgeon who gets away with everything. Of course, the reality is that people love the fantasy of being House, not Gregory House himself. Most people watching the show got off on seeing House get away with speaking his mind and not having to suffer any significant consequences for it, all because he was an undeniable medical genius who could diagnose things no one else could. House went on innumerable rants about how his miserable condition, bad behavior, unethical stunts, and risky decisions all were excusable because he turned out to be right. A lot of people took this message to heart and now try to apply it, consciously or unconsciously, in their daily lives. An unfortunate, albeit predictable, consequence, as the real message of the whole show–and it was far from subtle–was that House was full of shit. He was a broken shell of a human being whose salient justifications time and time again failed to bring him any real satisfaction or happiness. As a show, House was both an exhibition and ruthless deconstruction of this kind of person, a show that carefully pondered the many good things House had to say while constantly reminding the viewer that his act was all one big smokescreen. Being right on one thing doesn’t make you right on everything. It doesn’t absolve you of all your other mistakes as a person or a human being.

If you have advice, pass it on, but don’t be irresponsible about it. You’re part of a two-way conversation; your delivery is very key. If you clear out the log in your own eye, you’ll be much more likely to succeed and really help someone out. However, remember this: the best teacher never looks for faults in his students to crow about. It’s not about correcting others; it’s about helping them learn because you care about them. Even if it’s just some idiot in solo queue that you’ll never meet again, you can make a small, real difference in their play, behavior, or experience of the game, all while being a better witness to humanity itself. That’s how you make the world a better place: little by little, step by step, and keeping House locked up in the cage he loves so much.

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