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The question

I put my foot in my mouth all the time, especially at work. I told my last boss that one of his newly hired executives was a dummy - and I got fired. A month into another job, I humiliated a partner in front of the whole team. I didn't intend to personally attack any of these people. I just saw the damage they were doing to the company and didn't respect them for that.

I am, however, tired of coming across as arrogant and a loose cannon. Sometimes I just get blinded by a moral superiority complex. My current boss has offered to hire a coach. But I am so embarrassed that it has become hard to go about my (high profile) job spontaneously and well.

One executive who fired me told me I was the most competent person he'd ever worked with, which, without social skills, is clearly not enough.

The answer

This question was signed "the unvoluntary bitch," and of course there are all kinds of tart-tongued remarks and acidulous observations I could make here. But that's too easy. (Though I have to bite my lip so hard it hurts re: "unvoluntary.")

Instead, I'll merely say: Madam, I feel compassion for you.

You clearly have a monkey on your back - a monkey called pride, hubris or, to use more biblical terminology, "vainglory."

Speaking of the Bible, you know how it says pride goeth before a fall? My own version, for your Eddiefication™, is: No matter how much of a hotshot you may think you are, hubris will turn you into an Icarus, and you will find yourself frantically flapping your melting wings in vain as you plummet to the cornfields before you can say: "Outplacement counsellor? Why would I, of all people, need an outplacement counsellor?"

By your own testimony, your career has been Icarus-ized before. You've been fired for calling someone a "dummy." But who would you say is the real "dummy"? You, or the object of your contempt, who may be laughing it up, popping bottles of Cristal on the poop deck of your ex-boss's yacht as we speak?

And now it looks like it could be happening again.

Okay, I've got some bad news, some good news and some just plain news.

Let's start with the just plain news: Humiliating people in front of others is not "putting your foot in your mouth." It's a willful act of aggression. Foot-in-mouth disease (which I've "lived with" all my life) implies a lack of intent. You are clearly full of seething intent.

Now, if your boss is suggesting you seek some sort of social-skills coach, he clearly has some interest in keeping you around.

But here's the bad news: There's clearly a flag on the field vis-à-vis you. A couple more infractions and you could look up to see your desk flanked by two security guards who curtly ask you to step away from your computer before confiscating your pass card and frogmarching you into the parking lot.

At which point you may find yourself blinking in the sun, wondering: a) "Did that really just happen?" and b) "What do I do now?"

Now for the good news: At least you've started to wrestle with the monkey on your back.

That's huge! Your question veers wildly from bald-faced boastfulness to agonized mea culpas. But you've come to recognize there is some sort of problem and you may be at least partly the cause of it.

A lot of people of your ilk never get there. They may get into the exact same type of confrontation with 10 different people in a row, but never see themselves as the common denominator.

No, it's everyone else - the idiots, morons and "dummies" - who is out to get them. It's amazing, and it's all because they lack humility.

Humility is often confused with low self-esteem, but they are in fact two completely different things.

You can know you're awesome and still show humility. Take Wayne Gretzky. Even though all through his life people have called him The Great One, he's still all aw-shucks when he works a room or a TV interview.

Do people call you "The Great One," madam? I thought not. Therefore, maybe you should stop talking about your "moral superiority" over others.

Oops, sorry, I said at the beginning I would refrain from tartness. But you need to seek to become more humble and treat your co-workers with more respect: This is crystal clear to me. You don't have to be a doormat. But don't float around with a helium-filled cranium, thinking you're better than everyone else, either.

Humility, in my humble opinion, is no less than the mother and father of all other virtues. When you lose it, you start to lose everything else: your generosity of spirit, your ability to feel compassion for others, your sense of your place in the world and the universe.

You stand to lose your livelihood as well. And I know you don't want that.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change, Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad and Damage Control, the book, now in paperback.

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