Archive for July 2013

Yet more on decision-making

July 31, 2013

This great blog post from Kathy Sierra has been doing the rounds lately. I thought I’d share it because it reinforces a point I’ve been making, not very clearly, over the course of several blog posts on decision-making: your resources are limited, and decision-making drains them. I don’t like the way she seems to equate “fat” with “unhealthy/lacking self-control” but I think picking at that would drain my own cognitive resources, so I’ll focus on her overall point:

And that’s all awesome and fabulous and social and 3.0ish except for one, small, inconvenient fact: zero sum. What you consume here, you take from there. Not just their attention, not just their time, but their ability to be the person they are when they are at their best. When they have ample cognitive resources. When they can think, solve-problems, and exercise self-control. When they can create, make connections, and stay focused.

She makes a point I’ve never explicitly made (my bad): that willpower and cognitive energy are coming from the same “tank”. You drain it and it’s drained. That same tank is your source of emotional energy too. If you’re wobbly on recognising faces, you’re going to really struggle with it when you’re tired; if you’ve spent all day trying to smooth over a difficult situation, it’s going to be really hard to resist snacking, or concentrate on your creative work. And so on.

My only advice about this is very general-sounding: be self-aware, be realistic, be kind to yourself and others. And yes, that advice is much easier to dish out than to follow. But honestly, some of us treat ourselves in a way we’d never dream of treating a junior colleague: denying ourselves breaks, questioning our decisions, refusing to acknowledge our own achievements. Then we wonder why we feel so terrible.

I’m sort of repeating myself now, so I’ll finish. But really, go and read Kathy Sierra’s article. It’s very good.

Don’t let it go

July 30, 2013

Recently my partner made a remark to friends which was misinterpreted. Attempts to clarify were washed away in the general tide of people saying “You’re wrong!” I felt a bit got-at but we both decided to let the misunderstanding go; there was more chance of being caught in the oncoming rain than actually having our explanations heard, so we just left. No big deal.

I found out yesterday that the people who did the misinterpreting didn’t let it go. They’ve been talking about it to people who weren’t even there, and the misunderstanding has been set in stone as fact.

I don’t like it because the thing-that-wasn’t-actually-said makes my partner and me appear spoilt and clueless. (We’re not, we’re really not.)

If I wasn’t so upset, I’d be able to laugh at the irony: this comment was worth discussing at length behind our backs, but it somehow wasn’t worth actually understanding in the first place (and my partner’s fresh attempts to clarify have been met with laughing disbelief).

This is why I don’t like “letting things go”. Because every time I let something go, trying to be laid-back, trying to smooth things over, it comes back to bite me. It comes back as the misinterpreted remark suddenly set in stone, or the bad behaviour that gets worse because the other person takes my silence as tacit acceptance, or some other upsetting problem that I suddenly have to fucking deal with anyway.

On bad days, I think the whole concept of “letting it go” is just a rhetorical technique to make the injured party feel bad about standing up for themselves. Whether or not I let something go is my decision, not anybody else’s. I’m the one who’ll have to deal with the consequences of letting it go, whether that’s “Oh, you didn’t insist on a receipt?” or the “People who ignored previous creepy comments also get the following creepy comments…” sleazeball algorithm.

This time, I wish I’d stood there and argued the toss until the heavens opened; better to be judged argumentative and stubborn on accurate grounds than be thought of as stupid and spoilt on completely false grounds. Anyway, it’s confirmed that my general approach is right: try to avoid letting things go.

By the way, I’m back! Did you really think I was going to let this blog go?