Pat Katz Pat Katz




PAUSE – 9.29 – The Simmering Stew of Assumptions

The Look-wREFLECTION: Anyone who has ever parented a teenager is familiar with ‘the look’. A defiant lift of the chin, a roll of the eyes  accompanied by a vaguely audible sigh, wrapped in an attitude of long-suffering impatience.  Assumed subtext translation: How can you be so stupid! What planet are you from? I am the only person in the world who has to put up with stuff like this!

The exchange presents challenges in family communication because of its powerful unspoken subtext.

There are equivalents in the workplace. Case in point: You’ve just been asked to work a third night of overtime this week. Your family is expecting you home this evening. You’re brain dead from the extra exertion and exhausted by a lack of sleep. You decline.

The soliciting boss or colleague delivers through clenched teeth a monosyllabic, “”Fine!”, turns on heels and stomps away. Assumed subtext translation:  And, I thought you were dependable! Apparently that’s not the case! Clearly you’re not the team player I thought you were.

All the family-friendly, work life balance policies in the world will not make up for the mishandling of the conversation and the subtle pressure exerted by this sort of interaction.

ACTION: A key challenge in dealing with workplace overload situations is managing the conversations about extraordinary demands in ways that maintain healthy relationships.

How to do that? Here are a couple of strategies that can be helpful.

* Take the time for deeper, more meaningful exchanges. Share the background to the request and response. Don’t assume the other person understands your needs or point of view.

* Test assumptions and judgments. Refrain from making wide-ranging, negative character generalizations on the basis of limited experience and easily misinterpreted non-verbal exchanges.

* Try not to take everything personally. Sometimes a steamy reaction has everything to do with someone else’s accumulated frustrations and not much to do with you at all.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more.” – Bob Nelson

“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: For an interesting article on Critical Thinking: Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions, see:

READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s Pause message, ‘I Wonder’, BW writes: “This was a good reflection. Short but bang on. I have learned to view and appreciate my kids (4) and (6) years old and how they can get complete enjoyment/laughter out of some simple or small things in life which we adults do not even see. It is fun to try and tap into the simple things to make them laugh whether it is a funny face, reading a Dr. Seuss book as fast as possible or whatever it might be that day.”

Life Balance, Overload & Overwhelm, Pause E-zines

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