Advice from my Mom

When I was in maybe 8th grade, I asked for a “cd player” for Christmas. My mom, knowing I already had a portable CD player, realized that I was asking for a stereo. After clarifying she said something that’s stuck with me all these years: “You really should be specific about what you want or (she held her hands out flat and imitated a deep sigh) you’ll be disappointed in what you receive.” I remember that image in my head as if it had happened just a few minutes ago. I could even tell you what she was wearing.

I often find, in reflection, that the results I receive are the most disappointing or frustrating come from poop and unclear instructions. “Give me that.” instead of “Give me that towel so I can clean up this mess.” “Move.” instead of “Please move out from in front of the dishwasher.”

Business Example:
In 2012, I emailed my assistant to find out if she could do some graphic editing for me with very limited information. Then I was out of the office for 3 days while she had no idea what to actually do. My poor lack of information caused her to have to do work three times over. I say “lack of information” because she didn’t need me to tell her how to do the work. She really just wanted to know what I wanted. More correctly, I paid her hourly rate to have her do the same task 3 times because I was unclear…

At Home:
My daughter is 8. She’s going through a “phase”. She gets very frustrated and seriously angry sometimes. To the point that I’ve had her throw toddler-like tantrums. We just had a conversation about talking through feelings and what was going on. She is a little dramatic at times, and started weeping as soon as we started trying to talk because she said she was in trouble. I stopped her and told her this was part of the problem… that we couldn’t even have a conversation without her jumping to conclusions.

The second problem that we discussed is that she wouldn’t talk to me, she’d get frustrated, flap her arms, and then try to leave the room, leaving me to yell after her, get back her and answer me which in turn made me mad TOO.

Or she would be thinking in her head, then ask me a question about “it”, leaving me struggling with what “it” is and her going “Nevermind”, where in turn I’m like no get back here and answer me again.

Some of this is a phase, or communication breakdown, but a lot of it is her muttering something inspecific and me having to beg for clarity!

While maintaining the idea of “delegate the result, not the task”, how can you also be specific? Take a simple task “Scan this stack of papers to receipts.” You might get 150 documents emailed to you. You might receive a zip file. You may end up with a folder on your desktop (or worse a boat load of files saved to your desktop.) So what if you said: “Scan this stack of papers to this _________ Dropbox folder.” Or. “Please type this.” becomes “Please type and grammatically correct this on client’s preformatted template.”

I tell my clients all the time before I start readings, that the more specific their questions, the more specific the answers. If you say tell me about my love life, you can’t be disappointed when I tell you, this says you spend every night alone on the couch.

Think of the ways that you might be more specific, even a few words at a time, that would save you the pain of redoing or reassigning things in your day. Have any ah-has? I’d love for you to share them with me!

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2 replies
  1. Cassi
    Cassi says:

    My son kind of grew out of the tantrum (or complete shut down) phase but he doesn’t care to respond half the time you ask him something. Everyone’s tried to get him to talk and he just sits there mute. Nobody knows what’s going on in his head.

    • Erica
      Erica says:

      I’m glad to hear the first part. I just didn’t expect so much backlash until she was maybe 15! Here’s hoping she’ll get it out of her system!


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