PETTY-PHOBIA: A Productivity Killer

PETTY-PHOBIA: A Productivity Killer

A while back I was involved in an infuriating (to me) conflict that seemed to be made up of a lot of little niggly nothings that got blown up into bigness.  It stopped me in my tracks and got me riled up…badly.

IS IT A VIRUS?

In reaction to it (and also out of my, I admit, boundless impatience), I coined a new word for a phenomenon I was noticing at the time:  PETTY-PHOBIA.

I say it means “the fear of all the little things in life”…all the myriad little concerns and dust-mote details of the World….things like whether some form was filled out properly or some rule was followed in exactly the prescribed manner or…well, you get the picture, I bet.

arc
“Arc” by Mike Green via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Petty-phobics — people who are afflicted with this seemingly chronic condition — often have major anxiety attacks caused by the massive overload of petty details and the perceived importance of each and every one of the durned dingleberries.

They spend a lot of time trying to get every single little thing just right.  They insist that everybody else around them have to get the things right before anybody can move on to more productive concerns.

Another name for these guys is “Perfectionists.”  (They probably call the rest of us more doofus sorts “Scruff-balls.”)

[I’m sorry, but I have to do this.  This is a You-Tube video of the Starrkeisha Cheer Squad @TheKingofWierd by TIU Campaign.  It is just too joyous not to share….]

NO GOOD RESULTS

Meetings led to stalemates and dead-ends.  Conflicts erupted and kept erupting over and over again.   A lot of good work kept getting stalled or had to be re-done again and again.  Redundancies proliferated.  A lot of trees died and mountains of paper grew.

It caused me incredible heartburn for a while until I got my head turned around.

DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN PAIN

I finally figured out that these people were really hurting.  What seemed like a minor thing to me was, for them, something that was of apparently earth-shaking proportions.

It boggled my mind.  I thought, what happens if they have to face something that is really earth-shattering?  Yeesh!  I mean, really.  If every situation you face is life-and-death, you are going to be suffering through lots and lots of deaths.

And I thought, how often do you make it to Perfect in this life?  For me, the answer to that question is just about never.  Something is always going to go aglay.  It’s the way of the world.

I wondered, then:  How can you even MOVE in the face of that?  OMG!

defeat
“Defeat” by Andrew Yee via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

WORKING AROUND IT

I finally figured out that rather than trying to pound some sense into the nut-heads, I had two other choices:  I could either (a) adjust and help them feel more comfortable, or (b) opt out of the game.

I could use either one of those two choices, depending on how important it was for me to be able to get on with my own dance.

It did occur to me that petty-phobics probably rule the world.  It is my opinion that this is because people who are busy doing their own thing let the petty-phobes get away with so much nonsense rather than doing the sensible thing (which, in my fantasy world, is picking up my light-saber and whacking off their heads or something).

But, I also figured out that you really can’t go around being like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland.”  Doing a bad Bette Davis imitation all the time is just…tacky.

crown-2
“Crown 2” by The Manic Macrographer via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

THE WORK-AROUNDS

So, how do you deal with all the petty-phobics littering your landscape?  Basically, it involves the same three steps you need to make every time you come up against fear or anxiety or insecurity.

ACCEPTANCE.  You can accept that this is the reality with which you are faced:  There is a petty-phobe in your face and you get to deal with that.

ADAPTATION.  You can adapt to this circumstance in whatever way seems to work best in the situation and then go on from there.  You need to help that petty-phobe feel comfortable and safe and secure.  It will not be easy.

Remember that this person is a good person trying to do the very best he or she can.  Your job, if you want to get around the roadblock in a civilized manner, is to make their job easier.

CHANGE.  If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.

You can change your response.  (In my case I had to stop blowing my top and losing my temper and come up with compromises and suggestions and solutions.)

Or you can change your environment.  (Walking away and finding more amenable situations is better than going postal, I say.)

walkaway-squared-circle
“Walkaway Squared Circle” by Fred R via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] Design by Banksy.

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Now comes another big question:  Are you a sufferer of Petty-Phobia your own self?  Do you like it being in that space?  Do you like the results you are getting as a result of being in that space?

Would you like to move away from that?  Are the results you are getting unsatisfactory?  Would you like to change your behaviors and get different results?  For you, too, the same three steps apply.

ACCEPTANCE.  Know that you are a sufferer.  Know that you will never be an easy-going sort.  Petty-phobia and the quest for Perfection is never-ending.

Know that you’re going to worry and get anxious and afraid.  Know that other people are not going to understand your issues.  Accept that other people are going to get enraged at you for doing that thing you do.

Remember that the shlub of a wild-eyed maniac who is standing in front of you is a good person trying to do the best he or she can.  Your job, if you want to get the fool out of your face, is to make their job easier.

This does include being sympathetic about their distress.  Getting all self-righteous will exacerbate an already-bad situation.

ADAPTATION.  Notice when other people start to act weird around you.  Pay attention when things start getting hairy.

Check to see what you are doing as well as what other people are doing that triggers behaviors that seem to result in not-so-good results.

Think about how you could make things easier for other people without getting yourself too tied up in knots.

CHANGE.  If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.

You can change your response.  Maybe you can make one or two small concessions without hyperventilating and curling into a fetal ball.  Definitely try to see the other person’s point of view.

If there really is nothing you can do about a situation and you are governed by rules that demand utter compliance, then say that and stick to your guns while helping them work through your dilemma.  Definitely acknowledge their distress.

Or you can change your environment.  Walking away and finding more amenable situations where you are not having to battle unreasonable sorts is always an option.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Notice that the advice is the same for both sides.  It’s always the same.  Humans do human things.  We work together (or not) and we’re all still trying to do the best we can.

Here’s a poem:


ANGRY, TIRED

You are angry, you are tired,

Caught between the desire to live your own life

And the need in some other’s eyes.

A heavy burden imposed on you

By old connections, old ties, you say,

But admit it:

You chose to swallow it whole

And now the anger festers in your gut.

 

You say you are tired of waiting for change,

Of picking up after one who is unaware,

Uncaring of the cost.

You say you are angry at holding up one

Who makes his legs rubber over and over.

You are tired, you say,

You are angry,

Yet compassion dictates your next move.

 

Trudging on, carrying the burden,

You persevere and you endure.

You persevere because it’s what you do.

All the effort that went before means nothing at all

If you don’t follow it to the end.

You say you are tired,

And you say you are angry,

But you go on because you chose to do this once

And you choose again to do it

Every time you feel exhausted.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Face of the Dragon” by Stuart Williams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts….

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12 thoughts on “PETTY-PHOBIA: A Productivity Killer

  1. Hi Netta

    As I was reading through this article it hit me that I actually suffered from petty phobia, didn’t have a name for it then. Of course I would make progress, but the problem was the time it actually took for me to complete a task.

    The fact that I say it today is an achievement on the ‘acceptance’ part 🙂

    My approach towards change (again unwarily) was the one you described as ‘changing your response’. My target was to tune myself into productivity over perfection.

    Now that you mentioned this, I now know what this creature truly is and can handle it better. Thanks

    1. Hey pro 1:

      Good on ya! Now that you’ve got a handle for it, maybe you’ll be able to make even more progress.

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your experience. I do appreciate it. Please do come again.

  2. Joana Marie says:

    Hi Netta, I was reading your article and it comes up to my senses that I had petty phobia because I am afraid to make mistakes even I following some rules and other people around when they said this is what you need to be done. But I don’t know the meaning of that before. But you know what I accept my petty phobia because even I was afraid to do those thing, I try my best to be productivity and focus to whatever things I am doing and not to the people around me saying to me that is wrong and that is not what they want me to do. I have enough for those people and they are make my petty phobia worse so I need to closed my ears to them.
    And right now I am not letting anything and anyone to be a hindrance to whatever things I am doing to make my life more productivity than to be more afraid to whatever I want to do in my life to reach my dreams because they don’t want it for me.
    Anyway, thanks for an inspirational poem.

    With a warm smile,
    Joana Marie

    1. Joana Marie…thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts. You do what works for you. Good! I do agree with you: All you can do is your best. Please do come again.

  3. Oh thank you! I really enjoyed this post. What you have said here made me laugh out loud. I have an aunt that absolutely drives me crazy with her pettiness. Well, she use to, but I have learned to let it go. Her need for perfection is about her and not me! It is a great lesson once you learn it and it made my life so much better! Again thank you for the humor you have injected into this topic. Fantastic!!

    1. Hey Sharon:

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your aunt-story. Hee! I am so glad you found the post amusing.

      Please do come again!

  4. I love the name! “petty-phobias” ha seriously on point! I have a few of them myself that i am making an effort to curb. I don’t know if you are at all familiar with the book Alcoholics Anonymous, but on page 420, I believe, it has a line that hits home. “My serenity is inversely proportionate to my expectations.” ha sounds about right. I also have a friend who like to say “Don’t let the paralysis of analysis catch ya!” ha any how thanks for this! It was exactly what I needed right now. and loved the little cheer! ha joyous for sure!

    1. Hey Dawayne:

      Thanks for the visit and for your comments.  I do love the line you quote from the AA book:  “My serenity is inversely proportionate to my expectations.”  It’s so right-on. 

      Often a lot of our suffering comes from our attachment to desired outcomes.  Walking on towards your goal one step at a time gets you there a heck of a lot faster than spazzing over whether where you are is a perfect match for some fantasy you’ve built up in your head, I say.

      I am so glad this post helped.  Please do come again….

  5. This is a very interesting article but the truth  is what you are talking about is so real and so many people are facing what you are talking about the good news is that this problem can be overcome and you can gain the upper hand on this. Thanks so much off sharing this informative post that is so helpful.

    1. I’m glad you found the post helpful, Norman.  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.

      Please do come again.

  6. Too much time is spent by a lot of people fussing over things that don’t really matter, and that time could be better spent on more important things. And the article is right in that too many people judge their own efforts in life too harshly. A job one has done one’s best on is usually a job well done.

    1. Oh, I hear ya…and I do agree!  Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, cpascal.  

      Please do come again….

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