Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tolerance to Exasperation and Back Again

I deserve the benefit of the doubt when I did that thing, the one that made you puff up your cheeks and expel the air loudly within my earshot.  You see, I was dealing with a difficult issue, so I deserved special consideration.  I know that you rolled your eyes and said something nasty about me to your seatmate too, don’t think that I don’t.  I deserve tolerance, I don’t know why you can’t see that.


Now, when you are dealing with a difficult issue, I am well within my rights to be exasperated with you because you always need special consideration and that is just getting old, you know.


Did you see yourself in these last two paragraphs, even just a little hint?  I hope so, it is called being human.  We know the details of our own circumstances and therefore can list why we deserve tolerance and the benefit of the doubt when something comes up.  But we are well within our rights to act put out when someone else comes along and wants special treatment because it is making our life more difficult.


Do you remember George Carlin’s bit about driving – how we all believe that we, ourselves, are an excellent driver but that the majority of others on the road are quite incapable?  Statistically we simply can’t all be above average.  (Because that would raise the average, you see.)


Then you add in that tricky confirmation bias – where you only see/hear/notice the parts of the situation that reinforce your own belief about your deserved need for tolerance or your righteous exasperation.  Whew, it is sometimes a wonder that we humans ever managed to get beyond living alone in caves and working all by our lonesome in some corner of the world.


Despite the fact that I use my writerly powers of observation to watch the tolerance/exasperation pendulum swing in plenty of interactions that I am not actively participating in on a daily basis, I am still subject to the same tendencies when I’m in the thick of a situation.  If I see myself barreling into the land of exasperation I will do my best to divert, stop short or turn around.  If I don’t see until through hindsight, I will devise some type of atonement in hopes of paying it backward in some cosmic way.


My main tool, when I am on my game, is to seek for clues of inclusion with the person or persons with whom I am sharing a space regardless of the amount of time that we may share that space.  By inclusion, I mean what we have in common, how we are sharing this human experience in a way that we could each recognize and nod knowingly.  If I see something of myself in you, then I am more willing to fall on the tolerant side of the spectrum.


Mr. Fred Rogers, that original paragon of niceness and inclusion, reminded us that we should think about what the other person might have been through that day or week or recently before passing judgment.  And it is quite true that as real as our own problems are to us, everyone else’s are just as real to them.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Office Survival, the Chameleon

The chameleon has come to represent the ultimate flip-flopper; one who has no real self-definition or internalized characteristics, instead one who takes on the best characteristic of the moment.  We are confusing the visual as the whole, instead of just an outward appearance which may or may not completely reflect the chameleon’s true nature.  Maybe we have it all wrong and should consider the positive aspects of this creature.


What if the chameleon is just really good at marketing those of its existing characteristics that suit the current model?  The chameleon takes on the colors of its surroundings – the texture of its skin doesn’t change, nor does its size, and it certainly doesn’t stop being in the amphibian family.  If it were sentient, it wouldn’t change its thought process, likes/dislikes, its work ethic and so on.  It is just using tools developed over history to best advantage to survive its current environment.  Clever, perhaps even enviable.


We are in a period of rapid change on so many levels of our environment, and we can be forgiven – indeed should be – if we find it tiring in the extreme.  I wrote this early on in my blogging experience, Embrace it or Resist it Change Happens and feel the need to update my thoughts on change because I have changed in these short months.  (For one thing, I’ve learned how to imbed hyperlinks like this one – which I think is a pretty cool trick because I am easily amused.)


I could probably decide to write once a month about change and not have to repeat myself.  (This is true about a lot of seemingly simple topics, really.)  I won’t because that would be boring and predictable which would negate the qualities of survival that I’m thinking about right now.


The chameleon uses a fear response to decide to activate its skill of blending, so it becomes a prompt to do something instead of a paralyzing occasion.  I think that is admirable, the chameleon is helping itself to get through the current situation by using learned and innate skills.  It is adapting, at least temporarily to its environment.


This ability to adapt has allowed survival and can be a boost into the next level of existence, which is to thrive in the environment.  Grow where you are planted – look for the familiar and even features to appreciate where you find yourself, while you work to find a more suitable environment for the future.


You don’t have to like something to see its merit – while I don’t like math, I am savvy enough to know I need to apply it to my money management so that I don’t become a target.


Chameleons show us the possibility in taking advantage of our skills to turn a potential danger environment into an asset.  Calling someone a chameleon is quite the compliment.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Being an Introvert with Extroverted Tendencies

BAR_logo_color_1I have vacillated for the last few years in the consideration whether I am an extrovert with strong introverted tendencies, or the opposite. I am not by nature a joiner, but I do love to collaborate and share.  I just took one of those psychological tests that define some of your broader characteristics so that I can participate in a seminar later this week.  This test, based on the answers provided on that day, decided for me that I fall on the introvert end of the spectrum.  I think that many who know me will find the results a hoot because the test actually did peg me pretty well.  (You can take the test at, it’s the Jung typology test.)

Folks who know me will also not be at all surprised that I got sidetracked in taking the test by the wording that was used in many of the questions – an absolute here, a vague reference there.  Since it is a psychology test, I have to assume that the test creators were deliberate in their word choices.  I would really like to ask why, for example on this question:

  • Strict observance of the established rules is likely to prevent a good outcome

This is an essay question to me, not a yes/no proposition – therefore a terrible challenge to decide upon an answer.

Or this question:

  • You prefer to act immediately rather than speculate about various options

This is also an essay question, and incomplete at that – how can I say yes or no without details or the opportunity to explain why each response would be valid based on the circumstances?  I certainly hope that in an emergency there is someone on the team who can parse through various options, lop off inappropriate ones and act while taking initial actions that don’t require thought.

It turns out that the people behind the test drove me mad intentionally to determine that I build specialized knowledge systems – that I like to track down the answer to the question, ‘does it work?’.  Darn Skippy, figuring out a system and getting it to work better is entertainment.  There are 16 combinations of 4 letter results possible in this test and the writers don’t tell us the reasoning and criteria behind each of the letters which make up these combinations.  Being an INTJ – I really need to know.

I can’t wait to find out how we will use the results in the meeting this week.  I found myself already weighing the pros and cons of applying these types of personality tests in the work place.  In the right hands, with deep understanding of creating combinations for optimal dialog and interaction, this would be a boon to any organization.  And then there are the rest, where the possibility of misuse is varied and high.  (There I go, studying systems to create sense again.)

It is this interest in process – systems and people working together in harmony – that informs my business writing.  And that helps me to see that it really takes all kinds to create a strong team.


You may also like some of my other posts:


Introversion Revisited – How Could I Resist?

When We are all Attempting to Differentiate Ourselves, Why don’t We like to be Different?

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Getting Ahead and Being Successful are Very Different Propositions

Most of us, when we think about these phrases at all, see getting ahead and being successful as synonymous to each other.  But once we scratch the surface of each and get into the meaning behind them it becomes clear that there are differences.


Getting ahead means being first, winning – so getting ahead of our debt would be a good thing, but what might each of us have to do to get ahead in our business dealings?  I am competitive, mostly with myself, and if I can gain in understanding and knowledge and skill in some way or another from where I was at previously, then I am getting ahead of my own curve.  I used to be more generally competitive and found that I therefore sometimes had cause to promote characteristics in myself that I don’t care for, like pointing out someone’s else’s flaws in an effort to trump up my own position.  As I gained in wisdom, I decided that getting ahead isn’t for me.


Being successful could be limited to monetary gains – in some way narrowly defined materially.  Or it could be much more richly and broadly defined – success should have a very personal definition for each of us.  Success should include a moral and ethical component, should encompass our work and our personal self.


We could attempt to get ahead by cheating in some way, but since that is damaging to our ethics (for the majority of us) then cheating could not lead to success.


The question of how someone defines success is one that I included when I provided answers to some behavioral interview questions in an earlier series of posts.  The answers can be very telling to understand if the interviewee will fit into your group dynamic.  The answer can be very telling in the way that we each approach life in general.  How do you define success?


I recently saw an article, sorry I didn’t save the link, which suggested that 20 and 30 somethings have little interest in getting ahead.  Good for them.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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What Price, Solution?

There are so many instances when the choices that we have to decide between are quite similar, making the selection of just one that much more difficult.  In deciding, we are rejecting possible alternatives – choices which may in the long run be better suited to our purposes.  In some cases, we may be able to give each potential solution a trial run, but this is rare.  We must determine the best solution based on established parameters and turn away from the other choices.


I’ve already written about making decisions once specifically, and referenced this requirement of life many more times.  Being good at making decisions comes down to having a strong understanding of how to define the current a potential future needs which should be met by the successful choice.   It also means giving up the idea of a perfect choice – attempts at perfection in decision making often lead to the worst paralysis.


So this first decision is to make certain that you know the intent or objective that the solution you choose should meet.  For instance in your personal life, the choice of a particular school for yourself or your child.  What are the pros and cons of each of the choices in comparison to the expected needs for the course of study?  Farther back, how to decide what is the best course of study?  What other factors will affect the choice – distance from home, financial aid, availability of work study jobs, and so on?


At work perhaps it is a new opportunity, but not quite in line with the direction that you had expected to grow.  Should you divert from your expected path, what are the pros and cons of making this choice?  What are the pros and cons of staying put and being prepared for an opportunity more in line with your preference?  Are you even ready to make this decision right now?  If you don’t really know what you want from these choices, then you should work on that issue first.


Perhaps you are normally good at making decisions and are agonizing over a particular one.  Instead of trying to figure out the best choice, your energy might be better spent digging into why this particular decision is so difficult for you.  Is it because you have fallen into the perfection trap?  Or are you just not ready to work on this particular issue right now?  Perhaps it is a case of conflicting priorities?


Perhaps you have received too many opinions from interested parties, regardless ultimately you must come to your own conclusions.  Lying awake at night agonizing over decisions is ridiculously maddening and not at all time well spent.  Here’s a great perspective from a fellow blogger – Decisions, Decisions – What if I’m wrong?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Change the Angle, Create Mental Space

I’ve been having some great new experiences lately, but somehow that hasn’t prevented me from being a bit on the cranky side.  I don’t like being cranky and I certainly don’t ever intentionally share it when I am.  So I’m consciously working through my cranky to get out the other side.


This morning as it rains, fingers crossed for my friends who are still bailing out from the round last week, I decided to look at things a different way instead of questioning why I’m crabby.  (By the way, whoever forgot to turn off their request for rain when we were in drought last year can turn it off now.)  Sometimes it is better to accept a thing that is, but to adjust to give it less of a priority.


So I’m inching around, looking for a sunnier view of things and while I am at it I remembered a conversation that I had with an employee a few years ago.  She had to send an email out to resolve an issue and she asked me to read it first because it had the potential to be sensitive.  I suggested that she reframe her whole premise in a more positive light and rearrange her facts to reduce the emphasis on a couple of problematic ones.  She told me that she felt that was dishonest.  While admiring her straightforwardness, I was a bit taken aback at her use of such a strong word in a conversation with a boss.  (I know bosses who would have considered her insubordinate, I disagree.)


Perhaps my suggestions smacked of being disingenuous. (Check out the differences in meanings if you are at all unsure.) I told her as much – but followed up by asking her intent.  Was she determined to be straightforward and walk into a sensitivity bramble, or did she want to resolve the original issue?  My suggestion would achieve the latter more easily than hers.


One person’s weeds are another’s wild flowers – except for dandelions, even for the folks that like them on their salads.  (You really shouldn’t eat the ones growing in yards.)  Principles are highly necessary, but shouldn’t always be held in a short view.  Sometimes we should walk around the principle and even take a few steps back to see it from different angles and distances.  I too am a straightforward person, but I can couch my communications in a manner that will best convey my intent without compromising my straightforward tendencies.


In this world where we seem to honor confrontation over many more worthy traits, wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if we took that walk around our ire (principle) and thought about what we intend to gain before we act on it?  I promise I will closely monitor if my cranky is the driving motivator for my actions and words in the days to come until it loosens its hold on me.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Superlatives Sound, Well Just Super

Excellence, Best in Class, World Class, phantasmagorical – wait phantasmagorical?  And bippity, boppity boo to you too.  Superlatives were invented so that we could have a means to express sheer utter overwhelming wonderful feelings like new love or hard won success.  Our heart pounding, breathy JOY that we absolutely must share with the whole world right now or burst.  But then they became a marketing tool and teenage girls everywhere just loved every blasted cute little thing.


Tell us what you really think about the use of superlatives, Beth.  Super-duper, I will.


I cherish every moment of unadulterated joy that I have ever felt and fervently hope both that I will experience many more and that each reader of this blog has a long list of their own immensely joyful moments.  (Superlatives cover that deep, dark end of the emotional spectrum too – but let’s keep this discussion on the high end today.)


But just like antibiotic resistant bacteria, we are running out of meaningful words to describe our true emotional peaks because we emptied out many of the existing words with overuse and misuse.  The meaning of excellence has begun to ring hollow when too many claim it without backing it up with real actions.  And as for Best in Class and World Class – what do these phrases really mean?


Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was a fabulous (superlative) song as Julie Andrews presented it in Mary Poppins, but if we attempt to feel that way all of the time, we become numb to the pleasure.  We twirled and whirled around the living room to that song until we were dizzy and giggly, but please don’t mar these special memories by telling me your new product is even better than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


Call attention to your idea, your product, your system by telling me real, solid words that define the usefulness.  Work harder to evoke a sustainable, achievable, reasonable explanation of what it can do for me.  Don’t co-opt these beautiful superlatives.


Sometimes I think ideas are just in the air, I started this blog post, had to set it aside for a call and happened across this interesting article – Never as Bad as it Looks and Never as Good Either.  It doesn’t talk about superlatives, but I think the writer’s point enhances mine.  Why is this moment a peak or a valley?


But, Beth, haven’t you advocated fake it until you make it in past posts?  Yes, I have so I’ll further define it.  What is the best high point of your life?  If it was superlative then you can use the memory of that moment for a fake it until you make it moment where you need to be more positive than you currently feel.  If you are not a superlative person – say your high point is particularly pleasant – then that is the memory to use to fake it until you make it.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Sick Days

Kids seem to be petri dishes for illnesses.  My first year working full time in an office was part of a stressful year for our family, which of course made my kids even more susceptible to every germ that came along.  I was so very thankful that my mom lived nearby and could come over to administer to whichever one was sick and let me go in to work.  It was frustrating to leave this nurturing task to someone else (even a loving and willing grandma), but I was very concerned that I did not want to get a label as being unreliable at work.

sick child

I know plenty of couples who try to split up these parenting duties, and I know others where this responsibility falls fully on the wife.  (I’m sure there are some families where the husband takes on this duty, I just don’t personally know any.)  And then there are other single mothers like me who have to cobble together some sort of safety net for the inevitable sick days.  Does a parent ever end the year with any left-over sick days?

Even if a parent finds support for those hours at work, what happens once the parent comes home in the evening?  I love my children and I find a lot to enjoy about being a parent, but I never cared much for the night duty.  My boys will tell you that I don’t do nurturing between say midnight and 5 am – I never have been much for it.  I’ll get up and do what needs to be done, but it won’t include much in the way of loving words or hugs.

It is a boon to have an understanding boss – you can perhaps adjust your hours to be able to balance both work and the extra child care needs.  You won’t get a glare if you aren’t particularly sharp in a meeting after being up in the night, rather an ironic smile.  You can finagle a late start or an early end to your work day, as long as it isn’t too often and you keep up with your tasks.

When I was growing up, home sick from school meant staying in bed where I could read or color or play with my toys, but no TV.  I had the same rule for my boys which these days would have to be no electronic device, I suppose.  The idea being that if the illness prevented attendance at school, it also prevented entertainment, except what could be created by the child.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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My Mind Simply Refuses

I do hope that I find that I am not alone in this one.  Do you have information that you just cannot, no matter how hard, how often, how many methods you try absolutely cannot seem to remember the next time that you need it?  (Right now my mind is finding it quite amusing not to give up the specific word, to use as an example, which I always confuse with another word.  The one which made me think of writing this post just a little bit ago.  Hilarious.)




Now if this were a math issue, I could commiserate with my mind’s disinterest.  I can’t tell you the number of times I sat in a math class, thought I understood the lesson, only to find out that apparently I missed something – or that something hadn’t bothered to stick around and make it into long term memory.  I get the logic of math, but some element of it eludes me and math and I are comfortable with this current agreement.


Microsoft Word and I regularly fight over sentence structures, I don’t recall all the detailed grammar rules terribly well, but if the sentence sounds the way that I intended I am ok with my mind not bothering to dust off all the grammar rules that I learned once upon a time.  Noun?  Check.  Verb?  Check.  Sounds ok when spoken?  Check.


Sometimes I get just a wisp that I retained the needed thing once and it was stored somewhere around up there – yes, there’s the spot.  But the needed thing has perhaps been moved to make way for some other reference, or grouped with something similar.  I can bemoan that it is missing, or I can figure out how to look it up again.


My example word is refusing to even give any hints.


In instances like this when the knowledge is a word I am particularly consternated.  A WORD.  I’ve always loved words, why would one trip me up?  I know that I’m trying to hard – I can’t Google myself out of this one.  I’m thankful to Google for most of the other times when my mind just says nope, didn’t keep that one around.


Ah, ha – one of the words I always confuse is restive.  Not the word that started this whole thing, but a little closer.  Whew.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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And to Think that I Saw it On (Fill in the Blank)

I have always adored Dr. Seuss, so a nod to him for this title and theme today.  Dr. Seuss encourages us all to embrace our uniqueness and to seek out stories.  I can’t resist a good story, can you?  I wish that every child in the world would grow up with at least one memory of snuggling with a loved adult and reading a book together.


Somewhere along the way through life many people stop doing stories – reading, telling – and only keep them by way of movies and television, sadly.  I started to think about this after telling a story today at a networking group about my son’s dog and a little adventure that we had walking recently.  My story telling today reminded me of Dr. Seuss’ very first book, referenced above.  Marco is a storyteller whose father wants reality in his tales, but Marco wants some spice.  Most of the pages relate the growth of Marco’s fantastic tale, the one that no one could beat.  In the end Marco’s tale is tailored to suit his father, the audience’s preferences.


When I was young I also thought that fantastic adventures where the way to tell stories, and often got caught in a fib of my own invention.  As I got older, I realized that storytelling for the purpose of relaying information and catching the interest of the audience is better done with real tales that can be found by just being observant.


I needed to take a break yesterday afternoon so I decided to take a walk.  Of course my son’s dog sat by me as I put on my shoes and gave me pleading eyes.  Now this dog has given herself the job of being the neighborhood greeter – she is convinced that everyone wants to meet her.

pleading eyes

We looped out and around the neighborhood and were on the way home when we passed a house where a dog was peering out of an open window.  I was concerned because the window was open wide and the dog was a good size and out popped the screen with the dog right after it.  (It’s a ranch house, don’t fret.)


Luckily these dogs wanted to be friends while I tried to encourage our group toward the house’s front door.  But no one was home and the dog was starting to realize its free state.  Yikes – now what?  I couldn’t tie them together with the leash, I had nothing else on me to use as a leash and I really didn’t want to call 911.


I looked around just in time to see neighbors across the street coming home.  They were kind enough to come over and while the wife and I discussed possible solutions, the husband took the dog and deposited her inside the fence securely, set the screen inside the window and closed the window and then headed home.  Without saying a word.


Stories connect us and it doesn’t always happen, but if you expect them to people will help.  You just have to get their attention.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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