My son, his wife and new baby are making the long trek home from Maine to NYC – a good 6 hours when traffic cooperates – on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s late when they are leaving. And dark. Should I worry? Nah, not a worrier. But it does get me thinking about why it is that we worry in the first place.
Worry is such a useless emotion. When we worry, usually there is absolutely nothing you can do to change things, if the worst were to happen, so why worry in the first place? Now if it would help, I might consider indulging in this emotion, but logical me sees no reason to put myself through a worthless exercise. Yet some people, like my MIL, just can’t help themselves and worry ceaselessly, almost to distraction. And her worrying changes absolutely nothing, other than causing her great stress. Why does she do it? Because she can’t not worry, that’s why. She is a habitual worrier. Not a good habit to have.
Worrying is a trait of the logical brain trying desperately to problem solve, even when the problem is one of our own creation. What if… the car goes off a cliff? … they get hit by a drunk driver? … a truck broadsides them because the driver is sleep deprived? There are so many possible solutions to the made-up problem, and so the worrying begins. The brain goes crazy with worry searching for clues to complete the pattern – does he look extra tired? is the car mechanically sound? – which would result in “I knew it!”
We also worry because we can’t know what we don’t know, and that makes us crazy too. Some of us (read: MIL) more than others. Without a crystal ball to let us in on what the future holds – I gotta know: what’s the end of the story? – the brain yearns for pattern completion. “Call when you get home, no matter how late, so I will know you arrived safely.” Can do, but it changes absolutely nothing. And when I forget to call, you worry until I do phone home… Really, no news IS good news. Good news in the sense of not bad news.
“I’ve got good news and bad news – which do you want to hear first?”
“OK, I’ll brace myself – hit me with the bad news – [wince]…”
“Hell, no, not me! Lay that good news on me and spare me the bad news. Is it something I really need to know?”
Here’s the communication takeaway – gender matters when delivering bad news.
if the listener is male, it doesn’t matter which comes first, the good or the bad; he’ll hear and process both and balance them out appropriately.
However, if delivering bad news to a female, be sure to end with the good news. Ideally sandwich the bad in the middle between 2 good things, but if there is only 1 good and 1 bad, place the good last. And if there’s only bad, for god’s sake find something good to tack on. There’s always something good somewhere.
This is because females hear and dwell on the last thing they hear. “You’re doing a good job overall. That last report was a bit sloppy but the one before it looked great.” See how this works? Much better than, “You’re doing a good job overall, but that last report was a bit sloppy.” Period. Ouch. Ladies, you understand the difference. (“Sloppy? What did he mean by ‘sloppy’?) Guys, heads up on this when you need to reprimand a female report.
Next time the topic is: Let’s talk Stupidity – Jonathan Gruber derails his career with a verbal faux pas, tsk, tsk!
Comments on receiving/giving good and bad news? How did it go over?