Have you ever been put on the spot to answer a question, when you know that the answer you give doesn’t give the full picture or may even be misleading?
Have you ever had to categorise things or people that don’t fit neatly into any of the options available? For example, if you were asked to assess yourself for your skill on using social media and whilst you’re a whizz on Facebook you don’t really use anything else, would you rate yourself as excellent, very good, not good etc? Whichever you choose, your answer could be misleading.
What made me think about this was an after dinner game I played recently. We had to think of someone famous and then answer any questions just with yes or no. The others then had to guess your person.
I chose Emeli Sande. One of the questions was ‘Is she a pop star?’ Well, yes – but no. ‘Is she on the TV?’ Well, yes – but no.
Obviously in real life we’re not restricted to answering with yes or no but it made me think about how trying to over-categorise people or things can be misleading. When we have to do that, we are missing out or ignoring a lot of information that might add to the picture. We’re missing out on what you could call the grey area between one definition and another.
Equally misleading can be when someone has made an assumption based on some general factors but that they don’t necessarily apply to everyone or everything.
They might assume that because you drive an expensive car that you have a very comfortable income. This would be on the basis that most people who drive an expensive car do. What they might not know is that the reason you drive that car is that owning a nice car is your one big extravagance, or that your company leases it for you.
Ignoring the grey stuff can sometimes work to your advantage.
Obvious examples for that are things like assumptions made about your ability because of the school or university you went to (although that of course could also go the other way). Or having one overseas client could allow you to describe yourself as an international or global company, so not really giving the full picture.
When you can work it to your advantage like that it’s great but what about when ignoring the grey stuff holds you back?
This can quite often happen when we start to categorise ourselves. Do you ever think you’re not good enough because you don’t have a particular qualification, even though you might have lots of valuable experience?
Or the other way round. Do you put yourself down because you don’t have much experience of something, even though you have great learning potential?
There’s such a lot more to a description than a simple yes or no, or black or white.
Don’t ignore the valuable information in the grey areas.
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