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“It’s not cold, you’re cold,” is a favorite statement of a relative of mine. His point is that how we experience the temperature is subjective. Or, maybe his point is quit complaining, which is more likely.

I love to say it to my kids when they are complaining that I keep the thermostat to low (like this morning). In all fairness, the complainer’s bedroom is over the garage and in the winter his room is in the low sixties or less at night with the door closed. Yes, he could leave the door open and have a balmy 65 degree night. Or, he could warm the room up before he goes to bed, but he chooses not to.

But I digress.

Temperature is not subjective. Temperature is an objective value that can be measured on little device called a…Bueller, Bueller?  Thermometer. Right. Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin all give an objective number. Now before you perfectionist engineers start arguing about the differences in accuracy depending on the material used in the thermostat, thermocouples versus thermometers, and all the other minutia, can we simply agree that measuring temperature is objective, not subjective?

Even so, our experience of temperature is subjective, even while temperature itself is objective.

Fun story Jeff, but what’s your point?

Here’s the point:

Telling someone their subjective experience is wrong may make us feel better, but it doesn’t help them.

This is true in leading and in family. And while I am happy to harass my kids (trust me, it goes both ways), it’s a bad idea with colleagues and direct reports.

It doesn’t matter how “wrong” you “know” they are. Arguing about their experience of a situation gets neither of you anywhere.

To move forward, we have to acknowledge their subjective experience, understand as best we can and work out solutions.

Maybe, raising the thermostat one degree would be ok.


Dr. Jeff

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