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Posts Tagged ‘too much information’

Want to get a job? Change jobs? Get married? Get divorced? Have a baby? Lose the baby weight? Organize your closet? Come out of the closet? Streamline your life? Whatever it is that you’re after, in all likelihood–according to a piece that ran in the L.A. Times this weekend–there’s a coach for that.

Writer Mary MacVean cites everything from “the urge to do things perfectly… and the fear that we’re not up to the task” to the idea that we’re living in “an evolved and specialized world” and the fact that this modern world has many of us isolated from extended family that might have been nearby and available to help out with some of these conundrums as explanations for the coaching phenomenon. All of which make sense. But I, naturally, was particularly struck by this:

A world that can seem like it’s changing before our eyes also can fuel desire for a coach.

A couple of generations ago, most people made three or four important decisions that guided their lives… Today’s complex world requires decisions all the time: Should I move? Where? Is it time for me to change jobs? What’s the best way to invest for retirement? Will my child thrive in school? All these questions put people in unfamiliar territory…

[Evan Marc] Katz [a dating coach in Los Angeles] sees a paradox of choice that leaves many people frustrated. “In today’s society there are more choices, but nobody’s happier,” he said. Too many choices often lead to discontent, he said.

Well, we’ve certainly covered that. But I think it’s so interesting that, again, there’s a connection that comes up between perfection and too many choices. How the more choices there are, the more we feel that surely, one of those options must be the perfect one for us–and it’s our job to find it.

And then, when you couple that with “the more specialized world” she mentions–well, no wonder we want to enlist a professional every time we want to do anything. Say you want to do something relatively manageable, like organize your closet. But, you know, if you’re going to take the time to do it, you want to do it right. So, you do what any modern-day human with Internet access does, and consult the modern-day oracle (read: Google.) That’ll surely point you in the proper direction, right? Well, yeah–I’m sure that somewhere among the 685,000 results is the one that’s perfect for you.

Who wouldn’t throw up her hands and, rather than taking the time to sift through all those options (and watch as her entire wardrobe becomes outdated, thus cleverly negating the need for any organization at all), opt to enlist a pro? (Of course, if you go looking for a “closet organizing coach” on Google, you’ll have 423,000 virtual contenders vying for your business.)

It actually reminds me of something that happened back when I was in college. I was hiking with my (ahem, batshit-crazy, musician) boyfriend (we’ve all been there… right?) and some of his friends. The trail narrowed and became kind of rough at one point, before devolving into rocky, bushwhack-requiring overgrowth with no discernible path to speak of. Crazypants was at the front of the group; I was at the back. One of his friends who was in front of me asked if I wanted to scoot by, to move up to the front of the pack. I said something along the lines of “No, I like to follow, because then I don’t have to think about where to step.” He thought this was hilarious, and when I digested what I’d actually said, I was kind of appalled. Who wants to declare herself a follower?

And yet. Every once in a while, it’s nice to blindly put your faith in someone else; to forfeit the controls; to let them figure out which rocks are stable enough to step on, which trail is actually THE trail, while you just sit back and enjoy the ride, turning your own brain off for a spell, and trusting someone else with all the analysis.

And that’s well and good. Sometimes. A coach, a guide, hell–even a map can do wonders, but first we have to know where it is we’re trying to go. What we want. And that’s something that can’t be outsourced. No matter how nuanced our world, no matter how many choices we face, doesn’t the truest satisfaction come from getting to know ourselves–and then doing things accordingly? It doesn’t lessen the number of options, of course, but, it seems to me that getting to know yourself is the quickest route to getting to know what you want–and that’s surely the first step to getting it. It might be a rocky road; there might even be some bushwhacking involved. But, by taking it, you’ll be way more likely to wind up where you want to be.


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Or, “Why Women?” redux.

Apparently, women on the job greatly underestimate their bosses’ opinion of their work. That’s the word from a new study out of the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management.

Scott Taylor, the study’s author, found that men tend to assume their bosses think more highly of them than they actually do. For women, on the other hand, the reverse is true. According to Taylor, the difference between how they predicted their bosses rated them and their actual ratings was three times greater for women than for men:

What accounts for these results? “The most obvious answer, lack of confidence, can easily be ruled out,” Prof. Taylor says. “How do we know? Women rated themselves just as highly as men rated themselves, an encouraging development from the norm of two or three decades ago.”

Closer to the answer, he thinks, is that “women are so accustomed to decades of being ‘disappeared’ and hearing histories of women whose contributions went unnoticed that they assume these conditions exist to the same extent today. As a result, women in our sample predicted others would not notice their work, when in reality others rated them higher than men on a whole range of emotional and social competencies basic to leadership.”
The study measured nine characteristics: communication ability, initiative, self-awareness, initiative, empathy, bond-building, teamwork, conflict management, and trustworthiness. Here’s what’s interesting: when we go about gender stereotyping, don’t we associate many of those traits with women?
And yet.
That women are rated higher than they think — that’s encouraging. But nonetheless, when that inner voice tells you that, no matter what you think of yourself, you’re underappreciated at best — and wearing the invisible cloak at worst — does it hamper your performance on the job? Tear into your job satisfaction? And is that just one more reason why for women, the workplace structure is more difficult to navigate?
Maybe we can’t get over that feeling that we’re always being judged. Or maybe it’s because we were never socialized to slay the dragon. But I also wonder if one explanation might be the differences in the ways women learn to communicate. According to Santa Clara University Communication Professor Laura Ellingson, Ph.D., a scholar in gendered communication, research shows that women are more tuned into other people’s expressions and underlying meanings when they communicate. In other words, they take in much more information, do a lot more processing, and search for a lot of signals — Is my boss pleased? Does my boss expect me to do this or that? – that may or may not be relevant.
All of which not only makes decision-making more difficult but may also account for the reason why we are always feeling judged. And why we may in fact, as this study shows, misread the cues.
The moral of the story? Can’t say, other than this: if you think you deserve a raise? You probably do. Go in and ask for it.
Meanwhile, speaking of women at work, one more brick in the wall: Surely by now you have heard about the insulting question asked of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her response, when in the Congo on Monday, and the ridiculous media flurry that followed. Here’s a comment from tk on Shannon’s last post to put this all in perspective:

I am a male, and I proudly call myself a feminist. At 62 I have lived through the entire “feminist” movement, but all it takes to remind me of what a great distance still has to be travelled is one question to Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State (for God’s sake), about policy: What does your husband think about this?

What the hell is that????

Come in and smell the Chanel #5.

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This too many choices thing? It’s not just us. No less than e-behemoth Microsoft has recognized that our era would be more accurately described as the too-much-information age. And the more information, the harder the decision.

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