Whenever there's an earthquake - there was one here a few days ago - the first thing you wonder is, "How bad was it on the Richter scale?"
I'm a big fan of the Richter scale, even though I don't really understand it. The scale goes from 1-10, but the smallest earthquake "that can be felt" (Webster's), only gets a 2.
If I were in an earthquake that could be felt and it only got a 2, I'd be extremely disappointed.
"Obviously," I'd say, "whoever gave this thing a 2 is nowhere near the epicenter." (I'd definitely say the word "epicenter" to indicate that I know a thing or two about earthquakes.)
But most earthquakes aren't 10's. This week's tremor was a 4.0. Our house shook for 10 seconds, then nothing.
Most problems aren't 10's either. That's why we ought to use a 1-10 scale for everything.
Let's say you’re stuck in traffic on the way to work. It may feel like a big deal at the time, but it probably isn't.
In terms of problems, traffic is a 1.
The rational part of our brain knows that. The rational part is like a calm seismologist, unimpressed by most emotional tremors. We need to cultivate this part.
Stuck in a long meeting? "WHEN WILL THIS END?" you want to shout.
"Hold on a minute," the calm seismologist says. "There are only a few thousand PowerPoint slides left. Therefore, we should be out of here, at the very latest, by next Wednesday. On a 1-10 scale, this meeting is a 1.2."
Sometimes, our response to a problem is worse than the problem.
Tip: As soon as you feel triggered by a problem, score it on a 1-10 scale.
And if you're going to imagine the worst, exaggerate. Then, realize how improbable the worst really is.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
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Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.