"We gather knowledge faster than we gather wisdom." - William Bell

The Danger Of Unspoken Contracts

Posted: December 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I was casually dating an awesome girl. Or at least I thought that we were casually dating. At the time, I thought that as long as I was adept enough to avoid “the talk”, things would remain casual. Her thoughts were different. From her point of view, we had become serious right away. Needless to say, it was an extremely awkward situation when it became clear that we weren’t aligned in terms of the rules and expectations of the relationship.

And that’s when I found out about the danger of unspoken contracts. An unspoken contract is what happens when a lack of explicit verbal communication allows for each party to apply their own assumptions to a situation. A nonverbal contract, if you will. If those assumptions on the contract are not the same, there is friction as both sides begin to realize that the other party isn’t exhibiting the expected behavior.

Unfortunately, my relationship with this awesome girl didn’t work out. And as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that an honest discussion of your expectations at the beginning of a courtship saves a ton of drama and heartache.

The same theory applies to the workplace. A manager who isn’t able to clearly communicate her expectations to the people she’s managing will always be frustrated. An employee who isn’t able to communicate his goals to his boss a couple of months before his review risks being disappointed by the outcome.

Unspoken contracts are also dangerous in athletics. If a teammate is expecting someone new to the team to run a specific route when faced with a zone defense, it should be communicated. It should not be assumed. Otherwise you risk not having your receivers running the patterns that allow you to break the zone.

So why do these situations occur? The answer is simple. We assume that other party is able to figure out what our goals and expectations are. We think that the environment, our personality and our behavior are enough to indicate our intentions.

And we are either too embarrassed or too shy to express our thoughts verbally. So we rely on subtle non-verbal cues to hint at our intentions, hoping that they are enough. But the truth of the matter is that the other party is not psychic. They can’t know exactly what’s going on in our heads without us explicitly telling them.

The best way to avoid unspoken contracts is to communicate your goals and expectations clearly and early on. If you want a promotion in 6 months, say so. If you want to casually date and have fun, be explicit. If you are looking for a long term romantic partner, don’t be afraid of “scaring people off” by being honest about it. In fact, I would say that it is even more important to let your potential partners know early on. As the stakes increase, so does the necessity to be brutally honest about what your expectations are.

I have been fortunate enough in the past 12 months to have friends and mentors to push me to be brave. They have pushed me to have the awkward conversations early on and not be embarrassed about admitting what I want. And in 90% of those “awkward” conversations that I’ve had, the other party is refreshed, impressed and grateful for my honesty. I know it’s not an easy step to take, but it does save a lot of frustration. Good luck!

- Christian

10 Things I Learned From My Little Sister

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Idea Drunk's Ideas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Sometimes you learn the greatest lessons from your family. My sister and I have been teaching each other things for over 25 years. Over a quarter century, I’ve learnt a lot from her. Here are the top ten nuggets of awesome that she’s dropped:

1. People tell the truth more often than you think.
You just have to listen. When given a choice between honesty and dishonesty, the default thing to do is usually tell the truth. It’s in our human nature. It’s coded into our social DNA through years of conditioning. And even when people are lying, the easiest lie contains elements of the truth. Listen closely and don’t be afraid to trust.

2. It’s alright to have a bad day.
Don’t feel guilty about it. It happens to everyone. Just accept that the day is going to be shit and you just have to get through it. If you’re able to, cut the day short. Head home from work and close yourself off from the world. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Read gossip websites. Tomorrow will be better.

3. It’s good to dream.
Ever since Christmas, my sister has a dream to own a farm. With chickens. And some goats. And maybe even a cow named Isabelle. Is she anywhere near acheiving that? Probably not. But she’s working towards it every day. And having the dream allows her to find happiness in the everyday things. For example, she had to take out the compost. But figured that instead of a chore, it was training for when she owned a farm. The result? Instant happiness.

4. You can change your dreams.
This builds on point #3. It’s okay to change direction in life. Approximately six months ago, my sister’s dream was to go into space. She even started a savings account to put away a couple bucks a week so that in a decade or so she could afford to buy a ticket. Now she wants to own a farm. Both make her happy. There’s nothing wrong with changing directions once the circumstances change and you discover something else.

5. Life experience is better than work experience.
Lots of people take summers to “build” their resumes. We try to gain work experience as interns surfing the internet and filing papers in an office. But you never learn from that. You learn from traveling. From trying new things. From meeting new people. From expanding your network. When people are interviewing you they’re looking for stories, not lines on a resume. They’re looking for social intelligence, passion and adventure. In my last five interviews, I’ve talked about how much I loved beer. I told stories from when I went to Oktoberfest in Munich. And each time I got an offer.

6. Take your time to find your path.
Some people know what they want to do with their life in high school. Some people figure it out in college. Most people start down a path, find out that it’s not for them and then course correct. There is no timetable for you to find what’s right for you. There’s no correct timeline mandated by society. There’s no deadline. Everyone gets there eventually. Some people just need a little bit more time to find their path.

7. It’s more important to be happy than to listen to people’s expectations.
People like to judge. They like to compare. They like to measure you against their expectations. They like to tell you what you should be doing with your life as if they know best. And that can get into your head. It can make you doubt yourself. My sister has the uncanny ability to pick herself up and let those expectations wash over her like a rainstorm. It sucks for a couple of minutes, but then you towel off and get on living life the way that you like it.

8. Fashion is wearing what you like.
Whatever you like. Not labels. Not what matches. Not what’s on Gossip Girl (or whatever the kids are watching nowadays). It’s about finding a personal expression and wearing what makes you happy. If that’s a big sparkly bow that looks like you have a disco ball strapped to your chest, rock on. Fashion is for yourself, not for others.

9. Sometimes you need a muse.
A couple of months ago, my sister decided that she wanted to practice writing. So she started a blog. But then she found that she wasn’t inspired. She needed a muse to spark her creativity and put her in a writer’s mindset. She figured that this “muse” would be a pipe. A smoking pipe. Not to smoke. Just to chew on and to look cool. And to inspire her to write.

10. Poop jokes are funny, even in the most serious of situations.
What? They are.

The great thing about having siblings that they can teach you so much. They teach you about people, about interactions, about love and about the world. They give you the opportunity to learn every day as you’re growing up. And we’re all still growing up.

- Christian

3 Things I Learned In Sudbury

Posted: March 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Idea Drunk's Ideas | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

This past weekend, I decided that it would be a good idea to hop in a car for four and half hours and make a trek up to Sudbury for an ultimate tournament. In the snow. Here’s what I learned this weekend:

1. Go Ahead. Get Dirty.
Sudbury is one of the dirtiest cities I have ever been in. And I’ve been to Manila in the 90s. I think it has something to do with the mining town, but I feel like the entire place is covered by a layer of brown soot. In Canada, normally even the dirtiest places get covered by snow to look beautiful. Not Sudbury.

So what did we do? We embraced it. It was the situation that we were in, and we couldn’t change it. Too often, people search for the perfect idea. They automatically reject the “dirty” ones because they have flaws. You have to accept your circumstances and make the best of them. If only dirty ideas are coming to you, embrace them. Try to find a way to turn them into something you can use. Even if it’s a little dirty.

2. Be Nice.
Sudbury had some of the nicest people I have ever met. They were laid back and accepting. I found that whenever we were in a pickle, they were more than happy to help. All you had to do was ask nicely. It’s a concept that’s taught to us in elementary school: be nice. But it’s something that we often forget when we allow ourselves to get swallowed by myopia and busy schedules. Instead, we tend to focus solely on our needs and forget the power that politeness provides. In business, I’ve found that being nice to the “gatekeepers” (like the receptionist or secretary that controls people’s schedules) will get you farther than you expect.

3. Get Out Of The City.

Every Torontonian thinks that Toronto is the centre of the universe. The same applies for New Yorkers. And people who live in LA. The truth is that the vast majority of the world doesn’t live in those cities. You have to leave your safety bubble of a giant metropolis with countless entertainment and cultural options. You have to experience what it’s like to be a “normal” Canadian. To interact with the people who compose the majority of the country. Who buy the majority of your products. Who voted for the guy that you didn’t vote for in the last election. It’s always refreshing to exit the big city and interact with people who have different experiences, insights and perspectives.

So, this is what I learned this weekend. That, and playing ultimate in the snow is a lot of fun.

- Christian