Don’t be too quick or too slow to forgive

We’re told that it’s compassionate to forgive ourselves and other people.

It’s a great principle, sorely lacking in detail.

When, for example, is the time to forgive? And how do we do it?

By rushing to forgive we risk pushing legitimate feelings underground. On the other hand refusing to forgive is a lost opportunity for deeper connection and means that we carry unnecessary pain.

People react along the continuum of fast to slow depending on who they are and the situation, some things have a greater impact than others.

But at the extremes are:

  • Those who never forgive.
  • Those who forgive instantaneously.

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Fault-finders

There’s a fine line between demanding people and fault-finders.

Demanding people bring out the best in us by showing us what worked and didn’t.

We may feel upset that a report we slaved over doesn’t meet expectations and keeps coming back. But the feedback enables us to see what worked and where we’ve made wrong assumptions, left things out or there are areas that can be strengthened. Not only do the insights improve the current report but they also provide a mechanism for review that improves our work in the long term. Every iteration is an improvement. This is constructive.

Picky people are a different beast. They’re not interested in what’s good and bad, what worked and did not they head straight for what’s wrong and focus on nothing else.

There are other ways to describe these types: nitpicking, fault-finding, carping, critical.

The picky can be parents, partners, colleagues, friends, ourselves. What they have in common is that no matter how hard you try or what you accomplish it is never enough. The subtext of course is that: nor are you.

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Avoiding groupthink

How many people do you know who can –

  1. Identify the biases they bring to the table and understand how they can be used (for good or bad)?
  2. Listen to and respect all views while recognising ideas are not equal?
  3. Bring others along but not at the cost of sound decision-making, even when that means standing alone?
  4. Encourage a style of dissent that does not veer to chaos or produce fake consent?

Coherence is so strongly associated with survival and its value so deeply embedded in management practice that we would rather deal with the future consequences of a bad decision than the discomfort of going against the group here and now.

This is called groupthink and it’s what happens when members of any in-group try to minimise conflict by agreeing to something without critically evaluating alternatives.Disagreement is often perceived as disloyalty, rather than as a path to better decision-making.

Groupthink has been implicated in many disasters, from the Bay of Pigs to the GFC. What has emerged in much of the research that follows these events is that many people had doubts about what was happening but did not speak out, sometimes to remain ‘in’ but also because of an understandable concern they might lose their jobs.

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What is trust?

If I offer you my trust am I –

  • Agreeing with you?
  • Doing what you ask of me?
  • Offering robust feedback?
  • Protecting your feelings?
  • None of the above?

What is considered a sign of trust to one may appear as a betrayal to another.

We cannot define the minutia of every interaction, but without a shared understanding of what trust means it becomes another meaningless word on the annual report next to ‘integrity’ and ‘collaboration’.

And yet, because trust is vital to personal and professional life, we need to understand what it is and how to build it.

One way to understand trust is as a set of agreements about how we will behave towards one another. These agreements may be implicit or explicit and, over time, they may change.

For example, an implicit agreement is that parents feed their children. While parenting obviously requires more than this, a child’s dependency demonstrates the way in which obligations emerge by virtue of the type of relationship that exists.

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