Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Is knowledge a curse? I have been told by many that I have a good sense for people, that I have a great bullshit detector, that I have great empathy. But when does being able to sense what's what, being open to new things, become a liability? As much as having an inner divining rod may seem attractive, most folks don't want to think that someone else may have a better sense of people, or a situation than they do. As a woman, this "gift" is a double-edged sword, because our voices, when trying to warn, or be stern, or authoritative, are unfortunately most often interpreted as being shrill, strident, or bitchy.

Makes me think of poor Cassandra, who was cursed with the "gift" of foreknowledge, but the inability to make anyone believe her. No one wanted to hear what she had to say. Who wants to hear the bad news that hasn't happened yet? To make matters worse, Cassandra in Greek, Κασσάνδρα, also means "she who entangles men." All because she rebuffed Apollo?

It is crazy to me that it is still hard for women today to get their voices heard. But I know I am not the only person experiencing this, or indeed, that the phenonenon is limited to women. In corporate culture, as companies struggle with new directions, the Cassandra syndrome comes into play:
Foreseeing potential future directions for a corporation or company is sometimes called ‘visioning’.[12] Yet achieving a clear, shared vision in an organization is often difficult due to a lack of commitment to the new vision by some individuals in the organization, because it does not match reality as they see it. Those who support the new vision are termed ‘Cassandras’ – able to see what is going to happen, but not believed.[13] Sometimes the name Cassandra is applied to those who can predict rises, falls, and particularly crashes on the global stock market, as happened with Warren Buffett, who repeatedly warned that the 1990s stock market surge was a bubble, attracting to him the title of 'Wall Street Cassandra'.[14]
I guess the only way to circumvent modern-day Apollos is to be consistent with your vision and choose your battles. What is hard for people is to realize is that the sharing of impressions or new ideas is not an ego-play or an attempt to appear "right." It may just be someone's glimpse into the future—a willingness to move along with a current not everyone else yet sees—with the trends to come.


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