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Walking Down the Lane from Humility to Arrogance

Walking Down the Lane from Humility to Arrogance

By Srija Chakraborty

February 09, 2021

The basic human predisposition is to choose the virtuous humility over the much-despised arrogance. Given a choice, would you cook a dish out of the spicy arrogance or the sweet humility? However, it is not as absolute as we perceive it to be. Perhaps, we could make a scrumptious dish with a spoonful of arrogance coupled with a generous sprinkling of humility.

Four Personalities

Color Palette from Humility to Arrogance

At the extreme left of the palette, we have a blob of the “humble” green, and on the opposite end, we have a dab of the “arrogant” red. As you move from left to right of the spectrum, the saturation of the delicate “green” of humility gets diluted and swatches of the bold “red” arrogance starts adding up to produce a yellow tint of “arrogant humble.” As we move to a shade darker along the gradient, an orange “humble arrogant” emerges. 

Each shade communicates its inherent characteristics. We are familiar with the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Much about humility and arrogance has already been discussed a lot of times in great detail. A truly humble person is empowered with self-awareness, confidence, and contentment so much so that there is no urge to prove or broadcast. Humility makes you reverential, lets you help and appreciate others, and allows you to accept your shortcomings. However, we, in our limited capacity of understanding, often misconstrue humility as an antidote to pride. We misinterpret politeness as weakness or submissiveness. Therefore, a humble person is often taken for granted or even exploited. 

More often than not, arrogance is perceived as an unappealing trait. Arrogance is primarily about self- importance, self-enhancement, and exaggerated pride. Having said that, arrogance might not be out-and-out contempt for others; the focus on self-improvement is so overpowering that the need to seek validation from others does not arise. Even though we blatantly assume, arrogance, in reality, might not consist in presumptuous inflated pride. As what might be misjudged as making extravagant undue claims about one’s worth, might actually be an exuberant confidence resulting in making the right claims about one’s abilities or achievements. We will discuss later in this article how the use of the compass of arrogance can help us navigate through the right direction toward our endpoint by using arrogance productively and balancing it appropriately, without being overly blunt or rude to others.

So, let us explore the transitional shades on the line between the two diametrically opposite hues—arrogant humility (AH) and humble arrogance (HA). What exactly are these two? Simply oxymorons? How do you differentiate one from the other?

The AH Factor

Arrogant humility is characterized by smears of inflated pride or arrogance on one’s humility. A paradox embedded in an oxymoron. We defy the virtue of humility once we become aware and proud of it. Arrogant humility isn’t humility at all. Let us break down few of the salient characteristics that distinguishes the yellow from the green.

The HA Factor

You have arrived at the magical shade by blending just the right dose of humility and arrogance. The right tint of arrogance adds the correct depth of confidence, self-assurance, and guts, while the right wash of humility, sweeping over with gratitude, openness and accountability, wears off the wrecks of arrogance.

HA features an eclectic mix that comes from the palette. This shade will make you move with ease and make you shine through all the facets of life. Humble Arrogants embody self-reliance and self-confidence but leave no stone unturned to showcase themselves if need be. The elevated self-esteem generates a continued desire to excel and an impetus to take risks and travel the extra mile. HA characterizes veneration for others as well as for oneself. A Humble Arrogant knows how to draw the line between taking onus of their mistakes and not taking the fall when blameless. The HA factor invites inspiration and sets the tone for able leadership. 

Sourav Ganguly is the perfect example. The “god of off-side” brought in various shades of arrogance and humility to Indian cricket. The “Maharaja,” not so impulsively, took his shirt off and bared his chest at the “Mecca of cricket.” His charisma was such that no bookie dared to approach him at a time when the match fixers took up the reins of many Indian cricketers. Nevertheless, “The prince of Calcutta” is the man who came down the batting order and gave the opening position to Sehwag, paving way for one of the best openers Indian cricket has witnessed. He burned the bridges with selectors to ensure that Anil Kumble was part of the national squad for the 2003–2004 Australia series. He took the “risk” of exiting from the team if Kumble and the team did not “play well.” Anil Kumble was outstanding in that series. Sourav Ganguly backed Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and M.S. Dhoni even if that entailed disappointing the board and selectors. He was uncompromising but impartial. This arrogance-packed-humility crafted him into one of the greatest captains of all time.

Let us have a look at the idiosyncrasies that fine-tune and set apart the orange from the red.  

Now let us choose between the rock and the hard place.



Arrogant Humility versus Honest Arrogance

Arrogant humility is nothing but fake humility. It is pride veiled in humility. Often, we come across many celebrities, such as politicians and actors, humblebragging on social media. Fake humility stems from the urge to enact humility in order to glamorize ourselves or to grab attention and admiration. Humility is espoused. Arrogance is vilified. So often people act humble if not be one. 

We often receive commendation for the #nofilter #nomakeupflawlessmorning selfies on Instagram captioned “Can’t believe woke up to this.” We buy the humility of going make-up free. We overlook the pride behind it—the pride of looking flawless even without make-up. We pardon the implicit attempt made to elicit admiration toward a blemish-free, picture-perfect skin. This act of appearing humble in order to fish for compliments is problematic not only because it is deceptive but also because of the fact that it sets the wrong example as to what a bare face should look like. 

Parenting and humility can be used interchangeably. Unarguably, parents place their child’s needs above their own and extend the best possible support to build the child’s future. It is understandable that parents have certain basic expectations from their child. However, in today’s fiercely competitive world it has become a usual phenomenon that millennial parents burden their child with incredibly unrealistic demands and expectations. While the intentions are in accordance with the best interest of the child, the end results may be counter-productive. The “Trophy child,” in pursuit of meeting those unreasonable expectations, may lose their own voice and control over life. The parents emphasize on their hard-work and sacrifice for their child as a weapon to print their dreams through the child. In doing so, inadvertently, the nuanced genuineness in humility is compromised and the morality of humility is decried.

Authenticity is important but difficult to spot. So, the fake humbles are likeable and affable. However, they have early expiry dates. We cannot wear the make-up of pretention for long. It is sure to shed off some day. Needless to say, when exposed, they lose their approachability and, more importantly, their credibility. They are avoided. They lose friends and followers to fall back on.

Sometimes people use arrogant humility as an umbrella to shield themselves from their low confidence or low self-esteem. For instance, at our workplaces we come across many employees who do not want to lead a team project even when offered to do so. Then, there are some who simply reject compliments or pass on the credit to others. They perceive such manifestations as acts squared with humility, acts portraying I-don’t-want-the-spotlight attitude. The reality might be far from humility. These acts could be an outcome of the lack of confidence in one’s abilities to take up a challenging position. Such acts could also be contingent on the fear of getting exposed as incompetent. Similarly, by not accepting or bypassing compliments, one may be avoiding the risk of handling more expectations and more pressure in the future

Roaming around loaded with honest arrogance is better than wearing a mask of false humility. An honest arrogant may be unapologetic and, unlike a fake humble, is not manipulative or vulnerable. It is better to be honestly arrogant about one’s inflated confidence in one’s competencies or about one’s faith in one’s dream to achieve bigger things than to fake one’s way through humility to draw attention or to blanket one’s incompetence. Fake humility doesn’t guarantee long-term success in any professional or personal goal. On the contrary, honest arrogance of one’s superiority (if not presumptuous) can be used constructively to fuel self-development and to ascend goals in life in the following ways:


  1. Irrepressible confidence boosts the grit to pursue one’s targets and dreams.

  2. The absence of urge to scout around for approval and validation from others easily downplays negativity bias and wards off distractions generated by toxic people. 

  3. The larger-than-usual focus on one’s strengths provides safeguards against the weaknesses that confines one’s abilities.

Majority of the top CEOs we idolize, such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, etc., are marked by arrogance and it is this arrogance that has worked as an advantage for them. Steve Jobs was infamous for his little to zero tolerance toward mistakes, inflexible demand, and control-freak nature. He ruthlessly extracted the best out of his employees when their performance was not requisite. He micro-managed intricate details: from design of products to their slogan and logo. It is his arrogance to cling on to his decisions, push for more, and look beyond that made Apple Inc. a juggernaut. 

Christiano Ronaldo’s free kick at arrogance is nothing new. Perhaps, it his supreme self-confidence that makes him “arrogant, vain and whatever” and that is “all part of his ‘success.’” His inflated self-esteem hasn’t fouled over the decades; rather the exaggerated confidence in him is the internal motivator behind making the five-time Ballon d’Or winner one of the “best.”

The benefits of honest arrogance, though, can be better embraced while freed from the clutches of its ruinous effects. Moderation is the key. 

Wrap Up

If you were to choose a color to infuse into your personality on a blank canvas, which one would it be? If you go green, do not trade the smudge-free green for a smudged alternative. Be humbly humble. Do not scar it with fakeness.

If you want to take your creative flair to the next level and build a painter’s dream, orange is your go-to color—the color to success. Humble Arrogance is the arrogance that makes you stand apart from the ordinary and helps you reach the top rung on the success ladder, palliating arrogance with humility to prevent the former from becoming self-delusional.

If you choose red, unleash through your brushwork the burst of the best version of red. Use your arrogance productively to be on edge, to remain aligned to your goals, to distance yourself from toxic people, and to capitalize solely on your strengths.

Last but definitely not the least, choose anything but yellow. No matter how aesthetically appealing it is, you might wake up someday to find the magic effaced, rendering the same blank canvas you started with. Arrogant Humility will never fetch the rewards of true humility. Fake humility will make you chase the mirage of admiration, commendation, and attention but in the long run, it will leave you stagnant and grounded, blocking your access to avenues of opportunities and upper echelons of the success league.

We must also remember that humility and arrogance are judgments we make based on limited information and understanding we have of a person. Often, the message gets lost in translation, leading to misinterpretations. 


Srija Chakraborty gave words to the H-AH-HA-A concept developed by Partha PD. Srija is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.

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Scatter Diagram: A Pathfinder for Your Power

Scatter Diagram: A Pathfinder for Your Power

By Ushasi Sengupta

January 31, 2021

With a simple click on “Search,” or by pressing “Enter,” we receive plenty of responses to our queries on our screens, anytime and anywhere. Information is so widely available that a query string generates abundantly—sometimes more than we require. More or less, most of us can avail similar resources, as technology is pretty affordable.

In a world with a diminishing advantage of information, what could be your differentiator?  How do leaders stand out among the crowd? We have read that leaders can leverage analogies from other disciplines to solve a problem. Let us see how to systematically manifest that treasure trove of problem-solving.

The Scatter Diagram Technique helps.[i] The technique is a synthesis of our perspectives about diverse domains. It is a systematic approach that helps in identifying and exploring various solutions to individual and business issues at a micro or a macro level. Moreover, it can help individuals nurture a quality life.[ii]

In this article, we shall dive deeper and experiment with our instrument to arrive at creative solutions to “power conflicts”—a primary aspect of any business. We will explore diverse business situations that are potentially vulnerable to confrontations over the distribution of power. Subsequently, we will apply the concept of Scatter Diagram to analyze those scenarios.

What is Power?

Power is an ability that helps an individual influence others’ decision. By definition, “Power is a capacity that ‘A’ has to influence the behaviour of ‘B’ to do things he or she would not otherwise do” (Obisi 2003)[iii]. In an organization, individuals own different power bases—formal or informal—and capitalize power accordingly. Conflicts of interest in power transactions often result in disputes. Let us analyze a set of conflict situations.

Understanding Power Conflicts through the Scatter Diagram

As mentioned above, we will apply the Scatter Diagram technique and find out potential solutions to our cases in the points.

Our three points in the Scatter Diagram are “football,” “history,” and “politics.”Power Sourcing: How Do Football Clubs Foster Their Talent?

In Football, power transactions occur between power bases, such as between the coach and the captain, the coach and the support staff, the management and the players, the management and the coach, the senior team staff and the junior team staff, and so on. Football clubs have their strategy to attract niche talent. One of those is the player transfer policy of few of the professional football clubs. Who can forget the expensive player recruiting process of Galácticos, Real Madrid, in the early 2000s?

Power Sourcing/Fostering Power: In-House and Outsourcing

Real Madrid diversified talent sourcing and brought renowned players in the team. This created a player-pool and, in turn, fueled the growth of the club. Their move opened avenues for strong off-pitch commercial presence leading to a financial transformation of the club. Real Madrid doubled their revenue from £93.2m per annum in 2001 to £186.4m at the end of the financial year in 2005.[iv]

This tactic proved to be a differentiator for Real Madrid because FC Barcelona, its arch-rival, heavily depended on nurturing players fresh from the Barça Academy. Barcelona’s philosophy of nurturing talents resembles organizations’ strategy of fostering in-house talents based on their value systems. This, in turn, protects tacit knowledge and thus promotes in-house brands like Barca’s famous “Tiki-Taka” style.

From an organizational perspective, we observe Microsoft, the technology conglomerate, handing over the executive leadership position to Satya Nadella, a Microsoft veteran, in 2014. Whereas during 2012, Siemens, Hershey’s, and 3M recruited CEOs from outside to steer diverse strategies. Another recent example is that of Infosys. Infosys appointed Vishal Sikka, a former member of the executive board at German software company SAP AG, as the CEO in 2014.

Power Distribution: What If the Team Has Only One Center of Control?

Now let us focus on the process of how an individual or an organization can influence associated individuals, that is, organizational control. Going by our sample football point, we will explore two famous figures of the English football division—Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr. Arsène Wenger. They are among the most successful and elite football managers. Both of them are also known for their penchant for silverware.

Surely, something that places them beyond the crowd is their management style. Their leadership style was far from traditional, while their underlying strategy was “control.”

Centralized Power Steers toward a Common Goal

Though questioned multiple times, Arsène Wenger spearheaded both managing and coaching responsibilities. Interestingly, absolute authority helped these defiant personalities thrive beyond the glorious period of their career. A centralized power enabled both to form a multicultural and diverse team and to steer the team toward a common goal—productivity improved, complacency reduced, and quality ensured.

In companies, power distribution between leadership and employees follows a similar pattern too. Brian Stowell, the CEO of Crown Point Cabinetry that supplied high-end custom kitchen cabinets to customers throughout the US, earned the trust of customers and motivated the workforce by implementing his strategy of organizational control.[v] Thus, understanding the absolute authority of a coach in a football team gives us an idea of organizational control and its importance.

Could there be a flip side of absolute authority? What could happen if most of the organizational power rests with an individual?

Absolute Authority Might Lead to Organizational Conflicts

Lionel Messi is touted as “the single most important entity” in his club, FC Barcelona. According to his teammates, “Barca can do anything to retain Messi.” Focusing on the corporate world, we see the influence of Warren Buffet on Berkshire Hathaway’s future or how Elon Musk’s tweets on Tesla negatively impacted Tesla’s share price by almost 20 percent. The aforementioned are among the many instances of impacts of a centralized corporate governance.

Stand-alone influences, such as Messi in Barcelona or Ronaldo in Juventus, can help their team align to a common goal. If channelized properly, this stand-alone influence can motivate the team immensely. However, when that individual fails to perform, it might destroy the value. From an organization’s perspective, the higher the power distance in an organization is, the more dependent are the subordinate employees on their leadership.

This, in turn, makes an organization more vulnerable to differences in opinion among its employees. And, “agency costs” increase if the stakeholders are not managed properly. The rise and fall of Theranos, the blood testing start-up in Silicon Valley, depicts the entire picture of stand-alone influence of the CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, who was the supreme influencer and decision-maker of the healthcare start-up.[vi]

So, from our knowledge of football, we can infer that absolute authority establishes a culture of power-distance in an organization, which can enhance corporate performance and impact adversely as well. However, a corporate governance that can strike a balance between a culture of power distance and a system of distributed accountability will steer the institution towards a common aspiration and enhance the institution’s performance.

Power of Collaboration: What can We Reflect from History to Strengthen Our Power Tenet?

We will shift to the next point of our Scatter Diagram, that is, History. Transactions of power occur between a king and his nobles, between a king and a church, between nobles and peasants, among colonies and empires, and across different strata of a society. Let us analyze these structures and try to understand the consequences of the division of power leveraging some “historically tested” solutions.

First, we will try to understand the meaning of “authority.” As per Max Weber, “Authority is power whose use is considered just and appropriate by those over whom the power is exercised.”[vii]The early Vedic history showcases an effective way of distribution of authority. The Varnas—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras—were divided based on profession and people were living in a cohesive society. They were interdependent and had mutual respect.

Mutual Respect and Collaboration Drive Holistic Development

Though later on, this mutual respect was lost and the society became divided. This not only established hierarchy among castes and repression of the lower castes but also made the society weaker and vulnerable to attacks from foreign powers. Research study emphasizes the same as finding says that 80% of employees treated uncivilly spend significant work time ruminating on the bad behavior, and 48% deliberately reduce their effort.[viii] Hence, we can acknowledge that “collaboration and respect” can develop stronger bonds among teams and help the system prosper as a whole.

Mergers and Acquisitions: What Does the Roman Empire Tell Us about Corporate Synergy?

Thus, collaborations manifest synergy. “Synergy” becomes more vital when different institutions share their resources either by merging together or acquiring the other institution.

“Mergers and acquisitions” are crucial in the corporate world and so is the power struggle among the involved parties. Often, after acquiring a small firm, larger firms tend to overarch their culture and policy. Or when two firms merge, a mix and common culture are imposed on both the organizations. Two companies fail to negotiate their cultures and they clash. Amazon and Whole Foods venture, which, in spite of being one of the promising mergers, failed to create impact because of a cultural misfit.[ix]

Tracing back to ancient Europe, we see that the Roman Empire, the ancient mega-organization, was founded on the principle of res publica and sustained for more than 200 years. A closer look unveils that the imperial administration exercised both decentralized power and principles of minimal intervention. It maintained a fine balance between provincial versus centralized authority ensuring peace, law, and order on the one hand, and revenues and resources on the other.[x]

These centuries-old instances help us gauge the importance of organizational culture and behavior. Organizational synergy cannot be achieved unless the culture, management, and human resources of the merging entities are in sync. The peace agreements mentioned above can be a guiding strategy for the corporates today while designing the post-merger cultures.

Why Do Corporates Need to Plan for Sustenance?

“Corporate sustenance” beyond present reign depends on succession planning of a power base. Poor power transitions often impact organizations adversely. Confrontations and conflicts divided most of the religions apart. For example, Islam fragmented when prominent people got divided between the Shias and the Sunnis on the rightful inheritance of leadership after the Prophet Muhammad. This event teaches the importance of maintaining balance among “succession forces”—positive relations with leaders and also their supporters. Reliance Industries Limited reflected a similar pattern when the company split into two in 2005 because of the tension between two Ambani brothers. However, the organization revived after Mukesh Ambani had held rein of the business. Businesses can reflect on these historical events to make a cohesive and evolving work culture.

Power and Politics: Are They Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Now, we are on our third coordinate: Politics. Politics, at its core, is about the dynamics of power. In a government, a macro-organization, we see that the distribution of power varies across centralized and decentralized forms, in autocratic and democratic governments, in capitalist and communist rules, and so on. Also, within a government, we see the division of power between the states and the center, the houses of the parliament, the executive and the judiciary, the legislature and the judiciary, among various levels of the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, and many more.

Power distribution among various departments while working on cross-functional projects is very crucial. It is very important to understand whether any department can overrule the other department’s decision. Can any department curb the powers, aim, or budget of any other department?[xi]

Political Power Dynamics Can Help Us Arrive at Creative Solutions to Division of Power

Three major components of governance—the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary—have different relations and power distribution in different governments.

For instance, in India, the executive is answerable to the legislature and holds power till it has the legislature’s confidence. Whereas, the judiciary is an independent system that ensures the right conduct by the other two arms of the government. It has the right reserved to challenge any decision by the legislature or the executive and even strike it down. Although the judiciary is an independent entity the legislature can influence the judiciary system.

For projects in which strategy, execution, and compliance teams work together, this model can be helpful to ensure the right balance of power. Often within a party, executive decision power is diluted by the collective decision leading to performance criticism. As it happened to Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Finance Minister of India and one of the pioneers of Indian Financial Reforms, who faced extreme criticism during his regime for numerous corruption scandals and policy paralysis that were in place. When we look at business cases, we find Tata Sons and Cyrus Mistry indulged in conflict on the moves to reduce conglomerate debt. This resulted in an abrupt expulsion of Cyrus Mistry from the position of the chairman at Tata.

In the US, the political system is designed in a slightly different way. The executive has a strong veto power over the legislature, and only two-third majority can override the veto. Also, the legislative doesn’t have control over the executive. The judiciary has more power and is independent of the other two bodies.

A Combinatorial Approach

There can be different combinations of examples from each reference points of scatter space that can shed light on the various aspects of power distribution.

So far, we have seen three variables in our scatter space: football, history, and politics. We can express various power attributes, such as fostering power, control and authority, synergy, transition, and succession, as a combination of relations of these scatter variables. We can even try out different combinations of these coordinates of scatter place and arrive at another set of solutions with respect to organization’s distribution of power. For example, in a political system, the process of nurturing a political spokesperson is analogous to creating in-house leadership. The decline of the Byzantine Empire highlights the need for a strong succession planning.

Creativity: An Integral Approach in Differential Thinking

At an initial level, creativity and power seem quite unrelated to each other. But, mapping of different domain variables with an observed variable indeed needs creativity. Creativity triggers cues to discover a pattern. At times, these are a pattern of words, phrases, colors, thoughts, and of various other ways. From a broader organizational perspective, this pattern visualization is called strategy and vision. The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, visualized the pattern of technology usage and translated that into one of the key business drivers—AWS (Amazon Web Services). Thus, creativity exemplifies the power of contextualizing a contrasting thought. It has a double-edged impact on the principle of the Scatter Diagram. Creativity twines the scatter points together. Also, while applying the Scatter Diagram approach, we foster creativity in parallel. Hence, creativity is the heart of the Scatter Diagram and one of the most influencing parameters.

Scatter Diagram is a continuous process. This can be applied even if you have a different problem statement and a different set of points. Each experience of problem-solving with a Scatter Diagram widens the scatter space and so does the diversity of solutions. And the process goes on. However, as the saying goes, “Practice makes a man perfect,” similarly, the efficiency of our mind depends on the frequency of application of the Scatter Diagram. Every time our mind traces back the scatter points and associates with problem-solving, it develops both System Thinking and Creativity. Gradually, we arrive at “out-of-the-box solutions” from our existing experiences.

Ushasi Sengupta is a research analyst at Tata Consultancy Services. She completed her Post Graduate Diploma in General Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur in 2019. She is a sports enthusiast. Other than working from home and working for home, in parallel, she is spending her quarantined days exploring the unchartered territories. Running is her newly developed habit.

We are grateful to Mr. Shahrukh Moin Khan for drafting the foundation version of this article.




[iii] Obisi, C. (2003)., “Organizational Behavior Concepts and Applications”. Malthance Press Ltd, Lagos.

[iv] “Beckham drives Madrid to top of money league”

[v] Vanderschee, D. 2002. “Crown Point Cabinetry.”

[vi] Hu, C. and Ramsey, L. May 2018. “The rise and fall of Theranos, the blood-testing startup that went from a rising star in Silicon Valley to facing fraud charges over a wild 15-year span.”

[vii] Weber, M. (1978). “Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds.).”, Berkeley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1921)

[viii] Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, “The Price of Incivility”, Harvard Business Review,

[ix] Gelfand, M, “One Reason Mergers Fail: The Two Cultures Aren’t Compatible.” Harvard Business Review,

[x] Maier, F. 1995. “Megaorganisation in Antiquity: The Roman Empire.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift Für Die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 151 (4), 705–713,

[xi] Zaleznik, A. May 1970. “Power and Politics in Organizational Life.” Harvard Business Review,

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Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

Scatter Diagram in a Scatterbrain: A Story of Self-Compassion

By Srija Chakraborty

January 04, 2021

Though we subject ourselves to a spartan diet of effective communication skills, we fail to shed the extra calories that result in a gamut of misunderstandings and sufferings amongst our fellow human beings: just like the unwanted flab around your waist after living on a frugal diet and practicing a rigorous workout regimen. So, what is it that will get the world in shape?

Compassion! And it begins with self-compassion.

True compassion is the tool that unmasks the very basic purpose of communication. That is, recognizing and understanding one’s own needs and those of others, leading to a spiral of more profound and positive relationships around the world or even a small little corner of it. It is imperative that we gain a fuller grasp of how we can practice self-compassion in order to effectively communicate with ourselves and in turn with others so as to build a better world.

“I love you.”

You must have uttered these three “oh-so-important” words on innumerable occasions in your life. But, how often have you addressed the “YOU” to yourself? The idea might seem strange or even narcissistic, for most of us fail to distinguish the not-so-thin line between narcissism and self-compassion. Conversely, we attach “I am” more easily and frequently than “You are” to the adjectives “stupid” and “unworthy.”

It is evident that, more often than not, we inadvertently fail to establish a compassionate communication with our own selves. This handicapped self-communication stifles our self-confidence and smothers our self-esteem, thereby negatively affecting our decisions and behavioral patterns and degrading the quality of our lives.

Now, let us take this to a slightly higher level. This distorted self-communication affects us not only at the individual level but also at the group level. When our lack of self-compassionate communication stimulates wrong decisions, attitude, and perspectives in a group, we fail collectively as well.

Going to even higher levels, let us apply this to our society. The success of a society lies in the collaborative inputs from individuals or from the groups of individuals comprising the society as a whole. Failed self-compassionate communication is bound to have ramifications. The way we communicate with ourselves has a direct bearing on how we affect our lives and our society. The more compassionate our communication with our own selves, the more compassionate and adhesive our society.

Self-Compassion through Scatter Diagram

For us to inculcate self-compassionate communication in our everyday lives, self-awareness, self-worth, and self-acceptance are of primary importance. Here’s where the scatter diagram comes into play. Scatter Diagram fosters self-compassion by facilitating the following techniques:

  1. Self-awareness: If we stay tuned to our strengths, we can avert the vicious cycles of self-sabotage and move towards extending compassion to our own selves. Scatter Diagram provides us with a shot of self-awareness and introspection to identify and stay tuned in to our strengths. These strengths are called “points” on a Scatter Diagram. The techniques of Scatter Diagram help keep us focused on our inner landscape, making it a curtain-raiser in the journey towards establishing a seamless compassionate communication with the self.

  2. Self-worth: It is a hard truth that we cannot always achieve what we want to achieve. When we confront this reality, we question our self-worth; we feel threatened by the fear of being perceived by the society as an unworthy individual. We tend to become crippled with pessimistic thoughts of being shamed and criticized by others. The “self-worth” technique reinforces our real strengths and competencies, and helps us design our life based on these strengths. Scatter Diagram, by reminding us of the strong “points” of our personality, helps us derive our sense of self-worth. This technique administers hope and optimism within us and guards us from the apprehension of rejection in the future. By applying the techniques of Scatter Diagram, we inoculate ourselves from self-critical and self-blaming communication. This is achieved by reducing our irrational self-beliefs and fear of shame-proneness and failure.

  3. Self-acceptance: One of the barriers on the path to achieving self-compassion is conditional self-acceptance. It is humane to accept only our positives and not accept our flaws and deficiencies. In doing so, we allow our shortcomings to define us. We fail to treat our identities and our limitations as separate entities. We draw our self- portrait only in terms of our weaknesses and all the positive attributes seem disjointed. By applying the techniques of the Scatter Diagram, we are able to connect all those disjointed positive attributes that seemed unrelated to us and paint our self-portrait in terms of not only our weaknesses but also our strengths. By employing the Scatter Diagram technique, we also build on our strengths and this, in turn, engenders positivity in us to diagnose our less-desirable traits, find meaning in them, and embrace them. This is how the Scatter Diagram technique fosters an objective and self-accepting communication within ourselves.

How the Scatter Diagram Technique has helped me cultivate Self-Compassion

Before you read on how the Scatter Diagram has made a positive difference to my life, it would be worth knowing as to “Who am I?”

In my early childhood, the answer to the question went something like this: “I am a friendly, caring, impulsive, hot-headed girl who is talented, decent at academics, and good at Kathak,” or something like “I am a fair, pretty, and charming young girl.”

However, in my mid-twenties the answer to the same question changed. It read, “I am an underachiever who is not talented enough to be good at anything, and an ugly-looking person who doesn’t look good in any outfit.”

In providing answers to the same question in different stages of my life, I have simply super-imposed others’ perceptional image of myself and heavily relied upon those perceptions to arrive at my conclusions. In childhood, the others, for example, my teachers at school or my relatives, thought highly of me, perceived me as a very good student securing either the first or the second position in class throughout my academic life. After Class 12, I was accepted by several prestigious universities in India for pursuing an Honors degree in Physics. I had always wanted to do so.

However, heavily influenced by my parents and unable to maintain my stance of pursuing an Honors degree in Physics, I decided to take up engineering as a career. It is then, that, the well-intentioned significant others in my life, especially my relatives and friends, changed their perception of me.

I started casting doubts upon my talent. Despite the fact that with very little preparation I managed to find myself within the top two per cent of the State Level Joint Entrance Examination candidates, I borrowed my self-image of my capabilities as a student from those others. I doubted my academic capabilities.

Over the initial years of my professional life, I put my heart and soul into all my assignments but never garnered any attention, let alone appreciation, from my bosses. I constantly compared myself with my colleagues. I saw them outshine me the way I had used to others, back in my school days. I blanketed myself in fear of failure. I paid little or no attention to the potential that I was yet to tap. Gradually, I developed a very thick coat of low confidence and low self-worth.

This influenced the way I communicated and also affected the way I responded to communications. I feared clarifying my doubts from my bosses. I allowed them to overpower me, to criticize me, or to belittle me even when I did not deserve such treatment. I retreated. I lost my voice. I forgot my positives. I perceived myself as an unworthy, incompetent, and good-for-nothing individual. I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle. I could not quit my job in fear of being shamed by others and found it difficult to continue either. This sense of unworthiness was etched so deep into my mind over a period of two to three years that even without realizing, my dreams of pursuing a master’s degree in business administration and of becoming a strategist and eventually a highly successful woman became dormant.

My focus shifted its trajectory from my goals to my appearance. I emphasized only on my looks. Even “obsessed” would be an understatement. I gambled away all my self-esteem on how good I could appear. I defined myself only in terms of my appearance. Consequently, I suffered the ill effects. I became overtly anxious of each and every public appearance, even if that meant stepping out of the house for grocery shopping. I could not take a respite from checking myself on every mirror or windowpane that I passed by when I stepped out. I freaked out when I thought I looked bad, so much so that I could not manage to step outdoors; walking confidently on the street was a dream far-gone. I strived to look perfect in every photo or selfie, failing which I felt naked as though all my flaws were exposed to the world.

Every now and then I would find myself waged in self-defeating wars on social media, constantly comparing my photographs with those of others. I anchored on the weakest weapons such as makeup and beauty filters. I forgot to leverage my most powerful weapons: my confidence and my smile. In the process, I lost my stride in my uniqueness and my self-worth became contingent on my outer—not inner—topography.

It was at this time that I got introduced to this beautiful concept of scatter diagram by my mentor. No wonder, the first thought that ran through my self-critical mind was as to how could a person like me have any point on the Scatter Diagram. But therein lies the beauty of the technique. It requires delving deep within the horizons of your brain. It was for the first time that I started an in-depth analysis of my habits (good and bad), values, passion, hobbies, strengths, and goals.

And, it was not like eureka that I had my Scatter Diagram ready. I had to dig really deep to communicate with my inner self. My brain feasted on the deepest of musings on the following questionnaire:

a) What are the things that give me perpetual happiness?

b) Self-satisfaction or recognition by others, which one blooms me?

c) Benchmark that I set for myself or on the one that others set for me—which one is my motivator?

d) What were the occasions on which I was respected or appreciated? What were the occasions on which I was berated?

e) What do I want people to remember me for?

f) What are my accidental slips?

g) Am I courageous enough to recognize and embrace my imperfections?

Step 1: In my attempts to find answers to these questions, the Scatter Diagram has helped me rediscover things that motivated me like dancing, cooking, writing, and watching movies. It also helped me find my character strengths such as diligence, meticulousness, and courage. That I am good at dancing, cooking, writing journals was a disjointed event of the past. Scatter Diagram reinstated them. My conception of my self was, until now, defined only in terms of my appearance. Scatter Diagram gave me a wholesome and complete definition of my self by reintroducing my inner qualities.

Step 2: I envisioned my long-term and short-term goals. My goal of getting admission into a top business school and becoming a highly successful woman, which I thought was intangible, seemed attainable. My past achievements (points on the Scatter Diagram) served as constant reminders and sources of hope for an optimistic future.

Rigorous practice of the technique facilitates internalizing hope. The injection of hope through Scatter Diagram enables an improved ability to deal with the fear of shame-proneness arising out of a fear of failure and thereby propels one towards the set goals.

The psychological barrier stemming from a fear of criticism and embarrassment was the number-one barrier that impeded an effective communication between my manager and me. Now that I evaluate my self-esteem in terms of my capabilities, I can deal with any negative feedback more objectively: I treat the criticism and my identity as two separate entities.

So, the fear of criticism is not so aversive. I do not feel afraid to ask my boss as to what his expectations are from the work assigned to me. I do not stumble, if I need to clarify my doubts. Because of my improved self-communication, I can ably understand the information communicated to me by my manager in a manner intended by him. Consequently, I can deliver the expected results and also communicate my ideas and thought processes unambiguously.

Step 3: I chalked out ways to achieve my long-term and short-term goals by making use of points on the Scatter Diagram. This step distinguishes the Scatter Diagram technique from other therapies or counseling techniques. Let us analyze a bit in depth to understand how the Scatter Diagram technique is unique in its operational effectiveness.

The Scatter Diagram technique, like strength-based counseling, aids in providing solutions to people who have poor self-esteem, want to overcome challenges, and achieve their goals but often feel stuck in life. Strength-based counseling helps in identifying strengths and in realizing goals by capitalizing solely on strengths. Unarguably, though working on strengths offers a plethora of benefits, yet focusing only on the strengths can sometimes be a disadvantageous attitude. Emphasizing only on what works for you may leave unaddressed underlying maladaptive thoughts stemming from what does not work for you.

Our weaknesses are our problem areas. The general human tendency is to look for solutions that have worked for us in the past. When you practice the Scatter Diagram technique, you have a natural inclination towards scouting for points with similar situations or problems and, thereafter, deriving workable solutions from them. In doing so, Scatter Diagram not only focuses on strengths but also addresses the underlying issues or problems arising from weaknesses.

Scatter Diagram by the sheer nature of it—that is, scattered—explains why you cannot always focus just on your strengths, and, sometimes, how the best way to move forward is to embrace the imperfections and address the underlying problems arising from those imperfections. In the process, the weaknesses themselves could become the points on the Scatter Diagram and serve as reminders that those weaknesses themselves can be turned into strengths by accepting them and addressing them.

A constant point on the Scatter Diagram could be the ability to take up one’s weaknesses. It is needless to say how embracing weaknesses does not result in misplaced perceptions of reality and in chasing unrealistic targets. For instance, one of my strengths is “meticulousness.” When I leveraged only on meticulousness, I tried to perfect every minute aspect of my appearance and when unable to do so, I could not accept the asymmetry and settle for anything less. I found myself invariably trapped in the self-harming vicious cycles.

Movies, a constant point on my Scatter Diagram, introduced me to Olive from the 2006 award-winning American blockbuster movie Little Miss Sunshine and made me believe in the dictum: “Let Olive be Olive.” From Olive, I learnt that it is okay to not conform to the conventional standards of beauty and that it is more important to embody one’s wholeness. Scatter Diagram gave me ample resources to broaden the horizon of my idea of beauty and encouraged me to become more self-accepting and love every bit of me. Now, I use meticulousness to fuel self-improvement without being destructive. With continued practice, the ability to find comfort from discomfort could become one of my points on the scatter plot.

The Scatter Diagram technique, in enabling me to harness the power of self-compassion, has streamlined my inner and outer communication skills. I feel safer and more-cared-for with my new self. I am bestowed with more courage to practice imperfections. I have garnered more resilience to strive towards my personal and professional goals. My transformation from a stingily self-compassionate to a self-loving person was definitely not a cakewalk and certainly not an overnight phenomenon.

However, the intermediary trek to get me there is worth savoring every bit.

The Bottom Line

The most crucial yet less-touched-upon faucet of communication is the ability to avoid misunderstanding. Lack of compassion and, more importantly, the lack of self-compassion blocks our ability to understand ourselves and others. At the heart of the Scatter Diagram technique is the process to inculcate self-compassion. Scatter Diagram technique makes you self-aware by making you revisit the arenas from where your self-esteem stems, redesigns your life based on the positives inside you, and aligns your self-image with the reality free from your biases.

More importantly, Scatter Diagram, in its uniqueness, helps you identify your negative triggers and rather than sweeping them under the rug, allows you to embrace those negatives. It also gives you the opportunity to tap the best out of our negatives.

I have shared my story. So, all the people out there with poor self-esteem jammed with distorted inner and outer communication skills and unable to navigate your way through the pits towards your goals, please try your hands on the Scatter Diagram tool to become a more self-loving, a healthier self-esteemed, a better self-managed person and, last but definitely not the least, a more effective communicator.

The key to mastering this technique is the old cliché: “The more you practice, the better you’ll be.”

Practice, till it becomes your reflex.


Srija Chakraborty is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.

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Communication Skills Ideas Scatter Diagram

Introduction to the Scatter Diagram

Introduction to the Scatter Diagram


August 22, 2020

We live in a world of uncertainty. Easy access to technology does not guarantee survival. Individuals and businesses need to be creative just to survive the competition, let alone stand out. In this hyper competitive global race for innovation and value creation, creative thinking is a rare skill. Are all ingenious ideas the result of a sole eureka moment? How do we think divergently? Information is free but creates indecisiveness. So, the question is, what and how do we know? More importantly: Why do we need to know?

Every individual has a reasonable degree of understanding—practical, borrowed, or theoretical—of certain areas beyond their work. This understanding could be a result of their life experiences, education, hobbies, interests, accidents, etc.  The perspectives from those areas could be made relevant not only to problem-solving but also to a multitude of situations.

To expand the horizons of the thought process of my mentees, I have used the process mentioned above. The process aims to take a focused look at a situation from different perspectives, few of which might look completely random or unrelated at the first glance. The underlying idea is to think beyond the fixed boundaries enclosing the situation, and to be able to relate it to areas of one’s strength. If we were to visualize, we would find the view similar to a Scatter Diagram.

The Scatter Diagram, as I will call it henceforth, plugs in the expertise across these different domains to come up with a solution in an unrelated domain. For instance, a football enthusiast can use knowledge about the game to solve a problem of economics, an individual possessing knowledge of politics can utilize the same to solve a business problem, and so on.

Scatter Diagram Sample Points on the Scatter Diagram

How to Use It?

The Scatter Diagram visually correlates the strong points of an individual/business to the concerned situation/business problem. Generally, in our quest for solutions, we tend to look outward rather than inward. However, there are always certain domains in which we possess significant knowledge; if not, we can build our knowledge in a few areas that stimulate us. Therefore, the first step is to identify four to eight areas of strength. These fields/areas can be generic, such as technology or sports, or very specific, such as molecular nanotechnology or the English Football League. Each of these areas can be called a “point.” The Scatter Diagram is complete once all the points are plotted in the mind of the individual.

The next step is to use the Scatter Diagram in problem-solving. Let us assume that the problem is in a domain outside the premise of one’s Scatter Diagram; then, one needs to look for points that have a similar story. The chance of finding points that deal with similar problems is quite high. Finally, one has to evaluate the feasibility of application of the solutions used in these points to the actual problem.

The Scatter Diagram may also be used to understand a topic/problem from a multidisciplinary perspective—thus in greater depth—by analyzing the topic according to the points on one’s Scatter Diagram. For instance, if one wants to identify reasons for the high attrition rate in an organization, the first step is to identify the areas of strength. Let us assume the areas of strength to be “football” and “politics” in this case. Hence, the points on the Scatter Diagram will be “football” and “politics.”

The next step is to identify and analyze similar problems in both the points. Following are the possible reasons for high attrition rates in a football club:

1) Unsatisfactory wages

2) Not enough time to play

3) Exposure to a bigger/dream/new club

4) Feeling unsettled because one is far from home

5) Desire to win more trophies

6) Looking for new challenges

7) Teaming up with national teammates


Similarly, the following are the probable reasons for high attrition rates in politics:

1) Better chances of getting an election ticket

2) A major change in the ideology of the party

3) Low party funds

4) Decrease in popularity of the party

5) Disagreement with a senior leader

6) Acceptance of archenemy in the party

7) Increase in the popularity of the other party

8)Confidence of winning elections as an independent candidate

9) Unhappy with the leadership

10) Ambition of starting a new party


Reasons for attrition, as identified in both football and politics, can be helpful in creating a bigger list of reasons for high attrition rate in an organization. The list might not necessarily be exhaustive, but it would certainly help an individual to understand the situation better. Post that, a detailed analysis of each reason could solve the problem more effectively.

Thus, a Scatter Diagram gives way to new perspectives and ways to find better solutions to a problem.

Where to Use It?

The Scatter Diagram is applicable to various spheres of life. The approach, on the one hand, can solve business problems; on the other hand, it can help an individual find meaning in life. Let us see how.

Problem Solving: One of the important applications of the Scatter Diagram is that it aids in analyzing and solving business problems. As mentioned earlier, the Scatter Diagram technique helps an individual to look at a problem from multiple perspectives by considering the strong areas of that person as points on the Scatter Diagram and then to draw a correlation between the points and the problem. This technique helps the individual get over the omitted variable bias and confirmation bias while analyzing and solving the problem. It helps one to look beyond the visible, surface layers and get to the core of a problem.

Designing Lives: Another important application of the Scatter Diagram technique is that it helps in understanding people/businesses and recognizing factors that influence decisions and shape their lives/growth curve. Let us consider a situation where an individual or a business must make a decision with respect to growth. The points on the Scatter Diagram of A-type individuals/businesses (value-oriented) will be aligned more toward, among other things, ethics, rules, and principles, whereas for B-type individuals/businesses (goal-oriented), the points will be aligned more toward profitability, rate of growth, revenue, etc.

Leadership: One of the crucial responsibilities of a leader is decision-making. The Scatter Diagram, through its principle of considering the most important factors and relating points across fields/domains, helps in making informed decisions, resulting in solutions that are desirable, feasible, and viable. Inspiring and empowering people are possible only if different types of individuals are understood clearly. The Scatter Diagram, in a way, enables the leader to understand the different behaviors, patterns, driving factors, etc., of different types of individuals.

Regret Minimization: The Scatter Diagram also helps in minimizing regrets for both individuals and businesses alike. As Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon, puts it, “When I look back on my life, I want to have minimized the regrets I have.” How can the Scatter Diagram technique help in minimizing regrets? Well, as stated already, it works on the principle where the basis of any discussion/decision are points that matter to individuals/businesses the most. Therefore, whenever a decision is taken factoring in these important points, the probability of regret will naturally go down.

Happiness Management: The definition and premise of happiness vary from person to person. It is highly unlikely that the factors contributing to the happiness of one person will be the same for another. It is, therefore, important to understand the contributing factors. These factors act as the points on a Scatter Diagram. For every individual, these points would drive decisions, discussions, and perspectives, among others.

Group Discussions: A Scatter Diagram can be used to come up with a wide range of ideas in a group discussion. For example, if we have to discuss on an abstract topic like “haste makes waste,” rather than discussing it in isolation, we may relate it to our points of the Scatter Diagram. To understand this, let us consider “technology,”“art and architecture,” and “cinema.” As far as “technology” is concerned, we may discuss how research & development yields better results without time crunch, and how tech giants ensure quality work with flexible timings. Similarly, for “art and architecture,” we may highlight how it took twenty-two years to build the Taj Mahal, and how any piece of creative art needs time and cannot be perfected with haste. In the case of “cinema,” we may ponder on slightly debatable thoughts—how actors who start as theater performers and reach Bollywood are better than those who directly start with Bollywood, and how Meryl Streep takes time to ensure the quality of a movie and how that delay is not a waste.

In this way, we can widen the scope of discussion with relevant points from different domains and make meaningful contributions.

New Product Development: A Scatter Diagram can be used in conceptualizing a new product as well. We can take inspiration from products/services in the points of the Scatter Diagram and combine or modify them to create fresh products/services in our domain. For example, an executive in an e-commerce firm in the apparel industry may take football as a point on their Scatter Diagram and then use the concept of Fantasy League for the products to increase consumer engagement. This way, one can achieve wide spectrum of ideas across the Scatter Diagram.

Creative Writing and Speaking: A Scatter Diagram can be used to improve the quality of the content we write and speak as it helps to add multiple dimensions to the content. Also, it helps us to increase the credibility of our content by relating it to multiple fields. For example, if we have to talk about the education system in India, we can use a Scatter Diagram to cover this topic from various perspectives, such as mythology, politics, economics, society, etc. Apart from improving the quality of the content, this process helps in delivering rich and highly useful content through the inclusion of multiple perspectives and by providing an insightful connection. In speech, the process also helps in pausing judiciously, thereby improving the overall delivery.

A Scatter Diagram certainly provides us with a plethora of new ideas but the essential requirement of this technique is to have a good number of points on the Scatter Diagram (preferably as diverse as possible) and to have an in-depth understanding of each point. Also, this technique can be mastered only by rigorous practice.

In the series of articles to follow, we will delve deeper into various applications of the Scatter Diagram across domains.


I would like to thank my colleague Mr. Shahrukh Moin Khan for his inputs. 

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