How to Listen to Authoritarians (Without Losing Your Mind)

My psychiatrist told me that a study of Texas educators and employers showed that an unusually high percentage were SJs on the Myers-Briggs scale. [1] Seventy percent. Having spent most of my life in Texas, I found myself in the path, headed for an ongoing collision, often.

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An authoritarian anecdote

The bookstore owner interrupted a training session I was conducting and announced to the new employees, “Remember to ask of you’re unsure of anything. There are no stupid questions.” One employee asked, “Why do you give us ink pricing guns when we aren’t sure which books are new are used. Wouldn’t it be better to give us sticker guns so you can correct mistakes?”

Authoritarians refuse to process facts

I learned two lessons from authoritarians. The first: Facts don’t exist.

The authoritarian teacher

Authoritarian teachers are just as bad. I taught college writing and design classes for more than twenty years, and I spent seven years with one of Texas’ first charter schools, developing their curriculum and media programs. If a student questioned any authoritarian teacher, he would immediately be labeled “troublemaker.”

You must be assimilated. Compliance is required.

My observations, and the bruises from too many collisions with SJ authoritarians, taught me the importance of Rule 2: If you can’t assimilate, you must pretend. Non-compliance is always punished.

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Living metaphor. Follow me @stephens_pt.

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