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When Work Feels Like a Bad Date | March 14, 2012 | 11:17 AM EDT

The date was going fine, till I said something idiotic.

We were in college, and as we stepped outside, dead of winter, Boston, Ellen complained about the cold.

Instead of simply agreeing—it was freezing—I commented about "cold" being very psychological.

And relative.

I also may have mentioned Antarctica.

In the shiver of a second, "weather," the easiest ice-breaker in the world, had become a conversation-killer.

That's no small feat. But Ellen was unimpressed.

Weather, like everything else in life, is both objective and subjective. That's why gives you both the actual temperature, plus what it "feels like."

I picture a meteorologist at , trying her best each day to record the precise temp. (Antarctica, -129°F), but always getting pushback: "It can't possibly be -129°," someone argues. "It feels more like -130°."

At work, the split between "actual" and "felt" experience puts communication at risk, like a bad date.

Consider some examples (real):

1) Person A says: The boss wants to see you right away.

  • B hears: The boss wants to fire me right away.
  • Actual: The boss has an urgent problem, needs help.
  • 2) A says: This decision is a no-brainer.

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