Linguistic Viruses, Part II

More linguistic viruses that spawn much misery. The good news about linguistic viruses is that we can choose to stop them in their tracks.

6. Not Declining Requests

People who say “Yes” to every request tend to find themselves overwhelmed, resentful, and spending lots of time doing things they don’t want to do.

Of course, this can be tricky in the workplace. Johanna and I did a session on saying No without getting fired at SD last fall.. perhaps I’ll write some more about it.

The ability to say No — decline requests — is essential for dignity and health. And if you can’t say No, you can’t really say Yes, either.

7. Breaking Promises Without Taking Care: Undermining Trust

We can’t keep every promise we make… the situation may change, we may fall ill, it may turn out that we didn’t understand the situation… then we need to go back and reset expectations. When people don’t do this step, they loose the trust of other people.

8. Treating Assessments as the Truth or as Assertions (Facts)

Budd defines an assessment as “a judgment that you make about the world in the interest of taking some action.” So you might look at the thermometer, see the mercury at 16 F and say, “It’s cold out.” But I’d say “We’re having a warm day,” (because I live in Minnesota).

If many people share our assessment, we may believe it’s fact, but it ain’t.

9. Making Assessments Without Rigorous Grounding

Even though assessments aren’t “the Truth,” they are useful. How else would we judge the quality of software or the completeness of a feature? So we can ground our assessments in data and against criteria.

10. Making Fantasy Affirmations and Declarations

Budd talks about declarations as statements that bring something that didn’t exist before into being… which isn’t how I learned to think of declarations, but let’s work with his notion.

I could say, “I’m going to post to my blog today.” This is a declaration that’s backed up by the fact that I have the authority and capability to follow through on. My declaration is achievable by following a set of reasonable steps.

A fantasy declaration might be “We’re going to deliver these 20 new features in 3 months,” when we’ve never even delivered 5 features in less than a year. Hope is not a sufficient strategy to achieve new goals. The goals need to be backed up with a reasonable plan of action.

Whew. I hope I don’t catch any of these viruses! errr…. well, I’m human, so I probably catch them, but I hope it’s only a mild case and I recover quickly.