We all have our quirks. They make us human, after all! We all do things a tad differently from everyone else.
Right now I’m thinking about the way we interact with others. Some people say one thing while meaning another, and that can be absolutely maddening!
As I discussed in an earlier post, sometimes a boss will say, “I don’t care when you get this to me as long as it’s in within the next week,” which is grand, as long as both the employee and the boss have the same idea of what “week” means.
If a “week” really means, “I want this done in two days, no later than close of business,” and the poor employee gets shouted at because they’re “slacking off”, ouch!
What’s one to do? This happens so often in life when well-meaning people interact: there’s an exchange of words, an assumption of mutual understanding gets made, and neither party ends up actually knowing what the other meant or needs.
It isn’t just a failure to communicate—if we know our communication failed, we can give it another try.
No, it’s a stealth failure we won’t know about until it blows up, provoking serious stress and negativity. All is not lost. There are some creative and practical ways to handle these situations that will greatly reduce stress for everyone involved.
A colleague of mine often dines out with friends. Everyone in that small group tends to be agreeable and not overly aggressive—or even assertive.
When a dining establishment is picked, everyone goes along with the choice, whether or not they really want to eat there. It’s a mutually assured disappointment tactic whereby confrontation of any sort is avoided, but no one enjoys the food.
Eventually, this group noticed that no one was happy with dining out, so they changed up techniques—everyone in the group said where they didn’t want to eat, even down to the type of food.
What was left and agreeable to all got picked. Does that seem clumsy? It was for my colleague and his friends at the onset, but became much easier and since everyone felt free and comfortable in saying what they didn’t want to eat.
Reversing the process of how choice was made solved an issue for them.
I’m not advocating that method of choosing a dining spot; however, we can reframe how we interact with people prone to ambiguity.
If we have an assignment due in some nebulous framework—a supervisor tells us, “get this in within the next week”—we can reply with, “Is Wednesday by 3 pm good for you?”
Sure, there is a chance the boss will be annoyed and reiterate “I said in the next week; what’s unclear about that?” Of course we want to avoid annoying the boss, but being a small irritant for a supervisor today is far better than being the target of a rant later when you turn the assignment in past their idea of a timely submission.
Everyone is familiar with those folks who ask us (or tell us) to accomplish something, “when you can” or “when you get time”.
How on earth can we fit a task into our schedule when there’s this nebulous assignment floating around that doesn’t seem to have any sort of priority to it? That alone can prompt stress.
Then when the assignment giver is unhappy that we didn’t do said task immediately, even more stress and frustration comes our way. So often in our attempt to be polite, pleasant and easy going, we fail to ask questions, and we fail to make perfectly good requests, such as “could you be a bit more specific?
I want to give your project all the time it needs.” A request plus a positive statement of your good faith will go a great length in removing ambiguity from uncertainty and stress.