Some lessons seem hard to learn — or at least, we require several tries to learn them. We make some of the same mistakes repeatedly, or we invent whole catalogs of mistake variations. You can tell when you've met one of these situations, because you have a clear sense of whoops-been-here-before.
Some of these hard lessons relate to coping with disappointments. Here are some examples.
- Almost nothing goes the way it's supposed to go the first time. And usually not the second time, either.
- When the available data conflicts with cherished beliefs, reconsidering those beliefs usually works better than clinging to them for dear life.
- When the available data conflicts with other people's cherished beliefs, they sometimes reject that data, or adopt with very weak evidence (or none) new postulates to explain why the data doesn't really conflict with their beliefs. You can't control what they do.
- Re-examine cherished beliefs periodically, even when there's no conflicting data.
- When the available data conflicts with how you wish things were, try changing your wishes.
- When what you desire absolutely requires sacrifices you're unprepared to make, you have to either change your desires or make those sacrifices.
- When what you want for other people conflicts with what they want for themselves, it's wise (though usually difficult) to remember that they're in charge of their lives.
- When what you want to say to someone will probably have explosive or hurtful results, it's usually (but not always) best to let it remain unsaid until you can find a gentler, safer way. If you can't find a gentler, safer way, you might have to take a chance, but one option is always silence.
- When you disagree with someone, and he or she is unwilling or unable to discuss the matter reasonably, and you push ahead anyway, the chances of a good outcome are tiny.Re-examine cherished beliefs
periodically, even when there's
no conflicting data
- When you're the lone dissenter in a group you're working with, and they no longer want to hear from you, that's their choice to make. Respect it.
- When you no longer want to hear about something from someone who insists on making you listen, you must either accept that you will hear it again, or find a way to make him or her stop, or use the wondrous tool called "removal to a distance."
- Very little of what you've achieved was accomplished unaided. Credit for your achievements is much more valuable when shared.
- When your sense of fairness and right conflicts with what somebody more powerful wants, either make an accommodation, or move on, or become more powerful. Or some combination thereof.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on July 4: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: II
- When we feel the need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, to offer a view or information, we would do well to consider (and mitigate) the risk of giving offense. Here are some techniques for interrupting the speaker in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process. Available here and by RSS on July 4.
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