Skip to main content

(Almost) Never Say Never

The words "always" and "never" are so popular in daily conversation, despite few situations being truly deserving of the adverbs. 

When getting passed over for a promotion: "My work is always overlooked"

When arguing with your spouse: "You never do the dishes"

Always means at all times. Never means at no time ever. Even if rare, I'm sure there was a time you got a pat on the back and your spouse cleaned up after eating. 

We exaggerate to emphasize. To drive home a point. We don't mean to be dishonest, but to exaggerate is to say something false. A poor foundation for communication. 

If a co-worker's late for a meeting, it's unproductive to accuse them of "never being on time", even if tardiness is common. This breeds defensiveness. It's untrue and they can (rightfully) accuse you of lying. 

Exaggerated accusations breeds exaggerated responses. "You're always complaining about me" they'll fire backAt this point, no one is telling the truth and nothing gets resolved.

Start and end with the truth, be specific with your statement. "You were 10 minutes late for this meeting and yesterday's meeting". 

Point to the exact problem. Create focus and keep things clear. Simple, honest conversation. Less dramatic, more productive. 


Popular posts from this blog

The Art of Giving Feedback

Constructive feedback is an awkward affair. You don't want hurt feelings, but recognize the importance of honesty. You've tried the classic "hoping things will get better on its own" and unfortunately it hasn't played out. When giving feedback, here are a few things that I try to keep it mind. Start with empathy. Step into their shoes and understand their story. If you don't know, ask. Be genuinely curious. Feedback is a dynamic affair. Shared communication with a shared goal towards progress. Take the emotion out of it. Focus on the situation, not the person. Focusing on the person adds unnecessary weight to an already emotionally-bloated event.  Be specific. Give clear examples. Vague feedback equals dismissed feedback.  Doing above won't de-awkward things fully, but it will dampen it and increase the chance of better outcomes. 

Bias For Clarity

Bias for action. Gets things done. Go-getter. Traits companies big and small look for. And for good reason, you're being hired to do things! However, action is a secondary step that often overshadows the primary step, direction.   Clear direction is the foundation that enables our actions to takeoff. Without it, we're stuck in the mud.  Striving for clarity is an underrated skill. Having the courage to ask ( seemingly ) obvious questions, and to check in, making sure we're all on the same page. "O bvious " questions are a low risk, high reward way to add value. At worst, you'll add confidence to our actions. At best, you discover a misalignment that saves us from a dead-end.  The more people, the more clear we need to be. The bigger the initiative, the bigger the risk of reaching the finish line, only to realize expectations were off.  Success is always uncertain. But we can be certain about what we want and what everyone's job is. Things that can be clea

Negative Feedback, Positive Lessons

In the battle against plastic bags, a five-cent tax was shown to be much more successful at deterring usage than a five-cent credit for bringing your own bags. Carrots satisfy but sticks sting, and they sting hard. So we default to the less painful choice of avoiding loss. Loss aversion impacts the way we process information. A 2019 study  invited participants to learn through a series of multiple choice questions. Each question only had two options to choose from. Whether guessing correctly or not, they would still learn the right answer.  Despite the identical learning opportunity, participants were much more successful at recalling the answers they guessed correctly than those they got wrong.  "You're right!" feels good. We savour the moment, analyzing every detail.  "You're wrong!" stings. We want to quickly forget, dismiss, and move on.  When we succumb to loss aversion, we miss opportunities to learn. Failure is part of the process. We'll experie