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Where Communication Fails: How Power and Privilege Build Pride and Break Down Potential

“Ego”. It’s a word we shy away from, shuddering, distancing ourselves in such a way that we can pretend it doesn’t exist. But the reality is that it does. Ego can do a lot of things: it can protect, it can create and innovate, it can encourage growth and empower us to lead. It can also create roadblocks, promote over-confidence, and just make it difficult to relate to one another. 

Because of the capitalist nature of our individualistic society, we approach life with a single-focus view. We see ourselves as the sole drivers for getting us to where we want to be. If we rely on others, it simply won’t get done (or it won’t be done right). 

But what if I told you your ego was draining you- and for that matter- everyone around you? I bet a wave of defensiveness came over you as soon as you read that, and I get it. I’m not here to preach to you or start pointing fingers because the truth is that we are all learning. I’m no better than you.

What I have learned, though, is the importance of self-reflection. Examining the power and privilege we wield is essential to understanding our complicity in how we enable pride to become a negative driving force in our lives. 

We like to feel in control – it’s the most primal instinct humans have. Harnessing this control is so powerful, it can propel us forward to unimaginable distances. But it can also hinder our progress both individually and collectively. 

Throughout history, we have seen time and time again how pride has taken over and clouded judgment. And yet – we continue to repeat the cycle, convincing ourselves this time it will be different. 

Amazingly, the data shows us this isn’t working. In a study published by professors from Washington State University, Stanford and Florida State University, research found ego leads to overconfidence, and overconfidence leads to poor decision making. Those poor decisions affect how you see yourself, ultimately affecting how you build and relate with others.

As receivers of communication, we have to learn how to put ego aside. This requires a level of self-assessment that may feel overwhelming, unnecessary, and outright scary. But in doing that, you’re pushing yourself to become a better human. 

Adopting the tools necessary to actively listen will allow you to peel back the pride and get to the root of a message you are receiving. Think critically before reacting to feedback and understand that often, feedback is used as a means to genuinely improve a situation, not as a personal attack. And lastly, trust the relationships you’ve built with people. Surrender to those you’ve empowered in your life by remembering that others have the ability, strength, and deep knowledge to add to your life in many ways.

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