The Container For The Things Contained

Ministhy Dileep | October 21,2013 05:42 pm IST

Apparently there is something called metonymy in English grammar. The best example is "The container for the things contained".

Something like Mark Antony's speech after Caesar was murdered. "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears..." ** He was of course, referring to their power of hearing, by asking for their ears. Well, this stuff is called metonymy. So why is it relevant to us managers? Let us ponder over a cup of tea.

You see, when God created human beings, he must have been in a very creative mood. For we all are containers bursting at the seems with the things that we contain. Arrogance, populism, ego, name-dropping, hypocrisy, cynicism... you name it, we have it inside.

The Johari Window framework*** (Taken from the first names of its creators - Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham) gives an excellent analysis of the stuff contained within the taverns of our minds.

With two axes implying what we know about ourselves and what others know about us, it gives an elegant framework, which can be very entertaining as well as illuminating.

• OPEN AREA - I know, You know: Rather like dear Dr.Watson who is so open minded that Sherlock Holmes ends up reading his mind****. Only problem with a very Open Area in the psyche is that the honesty and naivety can easily be exploited by unscrupulous junta. No wonder we refer to such containers as the 'Open Book."

• MASK/FAÇADE - I know, You don't Know: Remember Max De Winter in Daphne De Maurier's classic, Rebecca? The quintessential mystery man. Or maybe you can remember Al Pacino in the very last scene of "Godfather", the original. When he blatantly lies to his wife about his being the head of the mafia.

(Ahhhh, for there are wheels within wheels. And the damn things are not even making a sound within this particular container. Beware of such, for they are the pepper of the earth. They pass by and your sinus gets aggravated.)


• BLINDSPOT - I don't know, You know: They call it the "Bull in the china shop" syndrome. For the container is so damn unaware of the stuff leaking all over the place-his stupidity and big ego. (Reminds me of the guy whose blind spot was name-dropping. He was happily boasting away, "I have a friend in Rashtrapathi Bhavan". My friend asked dryly, "The Rashtrapathi?") Managers are advised to handle such chronic cases with a sense of humor.

• · HIDDEN/UNKNOWN - I don't know, You don't know: Genius and Psychopathic tendencies can easily inhabit such unknown areas of the psyche. Like the news about the quiet student in the classroom who suddenly loses his temper and goes and shoots someone. Or the fact that the tea boy happens to be selected as the new MTV Singing Sensation.

Whatever be the final window to your soul, there is potential for improvement by soliciting feedback and being more open about yourself. Yet, in this increasingly competitive world, where Judas Iscariot is the role model, one begs to put in a word of caution.

More often than not, the container who contains many nasty things gets the coveted posting or assignment. Who on earth cares that his Johari profile would have the psychologists screaming for handcuffs? His outwardly façade can deceive even the most intelligent. One gets burnt badly in such close encounters of the third kind that one starts quoting Edward Thomas:

"The door that was never closed before -
Will never open again".

So much for trust. Managers better be self-contained.

* From James Thurber, "The Thurber Carnival". He is the famous author of the "Secret Life of Walter Mitty".
** Op. Cite.Book.
*** Gives you four windows into your self as interpreted above.
**** Wasn't it the Greek Interpreter Case? 


Ministhy S. is PG (PM&IR) from XLRI-Jamshedpur, and currently, an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She has written five books - 'Unequal Equations', 'Learning with Tippy Tortoise: Tales for Kids', 'Happy Birthday: Poems for Kids' and a novel published by Dronequill Publishers, Bangalore....