21 Feb Surprise! No Idiot’s Guide to Me (nor you)


Oh, the joy of discovering I am not the problem! All these years I carried the burden of being “difficult to figure out”. There was no “Quick Guidebook” into who I was and oh what an inconvenience that turned out to be for everyone else. I was just too complicated. Well, it turns out I actually am complicated but so is everyone else! They may just not be aware.

People typically get frustrated with me when I can’t answer simple questions about myself with yes or no. Are you shy? Are you confident? Are you creative? Are you friendly? Are you reserved?

To each one, I have to start with “well.. it depends…” Because it really does. I am shy at a networking event full of strangers but not at a dance club full of strangers. I am secretive about other people’s lives but am an open book about mine. I love serious debates but silliness makes me happy.

Watching everybody else be so clear about their “traits” just made me feel isolated. They seemed to have figured it all out. Yes, they are assertive…No, they are not timid…Yes, they are flexible. It looked so simple that I stared apologizing for the trouble I caused.

Reading The End of Average by Todd Rose put an end to this all. In his book, he writes about the work of Yuichi Shoda and The Context Principle. Caution – he was criticized for promoting anarchy in the field of psychology so proceed with care. In other words, oh well..

We are raised in a world where averages are valued. We look at the whole, take the average and lead with that. So, if one is shy on average it is safe to say that one is shy. Isn’t that comforting? It enables us to safely “pick” a box. However, it would totally lead us astray if we don’t make a clear connection between a specific situation and the specific individual experiencing it.

To explain with an example, it’s misleading to declare “all people instagram web viewer private accounts who experience infidelity become cautious in future relationships” or “Cody is cautious when it comes to relationships”. Not all people who experience infidelity become cautious and Cody is not cautious in all relationships – only with brunettes that remind him of his ex-girlfriend. So, a blonde’s experience of Cody would be quite different than a brunette’s.

The over-valuing of average and the lack of emphasis on the context makes matters simplistic in education, recruiting, performance appraisals etc. We want to lead by averages, generalizations so things remain seemingly straightforward. However, instead, we end up with average results.

Years ago, through observation, I came to the same conclusion so imagine my delight that there is actually credible research to support my proposition. Shoda and Rose encourage us to think in “if…then” terms to have an accurate analysis of people, self and performance. For example: If Anya listens to instructions then she learns quicker than average, if however, Anya must read the instructions then it takes her longer than average to learn. There won’t be an overarching label for Anya as a quick or slow learner. It sounds like a no brainer. However, many people would prefer to check a box.

I love this! Finally, I have the liberty to not only ditch the generic fitting rooms but the individual ones too. I don’t have to pick a general trait just so that everybody would know what to call me. There is no “Idiot’s Guide to Asli”. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) we all must be in the moment, observe and make individual & situational deductions.

  • Ece Ergin
    Posted at 00:33h, 22 February

    Asli is a real genius, a great thinker and an author. Hey there, don’t touch my boxes?.

    • Asli Aker
      Posted at 15:08h, 02 May

      What incredible compliment. Terrific to know that you enjoyed.

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    Posted at 02:37h, 26 February

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    Posted at 07:07h, 26 February

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  • Philippa
    Posted at 00:09h, 05 March

    Asli, there’s nothing like complexity in people – it’s our USP and what makes us stand out from the crowd . As you say we are all different and I love what you have written here. Let’s lift the bar and embrace being above, beyond and anything but average!

    • Asli Aker
      Posted at 15:06h, 02 May

      Thank you for your kind words. Differences always fascinate me! Time to stop apologizing for our own! As I say: “Let’s ditch the fitting room and enjoy the dance floor”

  • Kendal Callison
    Posted at 16:10h, 25 April

    But averaging is soooo much easier! 😉 Seriously. Now to contemplate how to value averages appropriately and emphasize specific context in areas including PAs and Sourcing…

    • Asli Aker
      Posted at 15:03h, 02 May

      It is easy on the surface is it not? Interesting to think what we lose when we oversimplify..