Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Know How To Do The Wrong Thing

A few years ago a lady with an accent unlike my own interviewed me for a job by telephone. I wasn't thrilled about this because, as far as I am concerned, telephone conversations are only a little better than conversations conducted using email or instant messaging. They provide only the scarcest of cues about one's conversational partner, or about his or her surroundings. And this was a job interview. I found myself struggling to gather as much information from auditory cues as I could, and I could feel my stress level rising. However, eventually this agony was coming to an end and I thanked the interviewer. Except that my voice came out in something resembling the interviewer's own accent.

I can laugh heartily now, especially since I have just read that this failure of our cognitive systems is not altogether unusual. In fact, rehearsing what we see when these failures occurs is the basis of some kinds of humour. Enjoy: How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion.

But now you are saying: OK, Bill, what can we do about it? To a question like that, let me give you a firm "I'm not altogether sure."

I do not think that suppressing the untoward thoughts will help. Suppressing them might actually make them more likely to intrude. The most promising approach that I know of involves what has been called "mindfulness." I don't need to say much because there's a collection of videos on youtube that you can watch.

Here's one that I like: Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn. You can poke around on youtube for items that might appeal to you more.

If you do try this approach I'd be very interested in hearing how well it works for you.