#664, #665, #666, and #667: Four Questions From People Who Are Basically Fine

The Goat Lady, who sorts my inbox, kindly created a tag called “low intensity” for questions such as these.

Dear Captain,

I am in a fairly recent relationship with a wonderful man I’ve been infatuated with for years (…on and off – we weren’t Firthing!). When we first started dating, I was nervous about a whole host of potential pitfalls (long distance, exes, contracting Oneitis) that delightfully turned out to be illusory, and at this point, we’re comfortable with each other, communicate regularly and openly, and have a lot of fun together.

So, my question is this:

While we’ve been friends for years, this isn’t a BEST Friends Fall in Love Story, and I’m sometimes surprised by how different it is to talk with him than with most of my close friends. Other than the boyfriend, the kinds of friends I stay up all night with are huge readers and unabashed lovers of pop culture, and we love nothing more than to conduct elaborate feminist critiques of Game of Thrones or debate the literary merits of fanfiction. I don’t expect (or want!) my boyfriend and I to like all the same things, and I know we’re still in the process of figuring out what we like to talk about when the “how was your day”s are done. And to be fair, he’s offered some pretty interesting feminist critique of Game of Thrones himself, but such discussions don’t seem to fascinate him in the way that I’m used to, with each of us tumbling out thoughts faster than we can speak and getting caught up in the joy of endless critical analysis. So even when we DO like the same things, I don’t know that we like to talk about them in the same way.

Since there’s the whole “I’ve been infatuated with him for years” thing going on, I can’t tell if this is something we’ll probably get past as we recognize not just the WHATs but the WAYs we like to talk about things, or if it’s a bigger problem of mismatched perspectives and ways of engaging that I’m choosing to ignore because LOVE.

How important is a similar conversational dynamic to happy, healthy relationships? I am currently very happy and in love, and I love that we have comfortable silences as well as witty repartee, but I’m constantly taken aback when conversations I expect to last ages seem over quite suddenly and would love to hear your thoughts on the role this plays in life/love/etc.

Thank you,
Not Awkward, Still Silence

Dear Not Awkward,

I don’t know what to tell you. Some possible explanations for what you are experiencing:

1) Your Jerkbrain, unused to contentment, is looking for something to worry about and has decided that this is it.

2) The years-long fantasy of this dude was better/more interesting than the reality of life with this dude, who is kind of boring when you get right down to it.

3) In long-distance relationships you can’t really coast on proximity, so the quality/quantity of conversation is looming larger as a factor as you try to find an equilibrium.

Since things are good, why not keep enjoying yourself and let time sort it out?

Hi, Captain!

Not a huge crisis, but I wonder about your perspective on an etiquette issue.

I have a lovely set of in-laws who are chronically, perpetually, and often extremely late. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, as I see arriving promptly to be a matter of respect, and I function exponentially better when my life is carefully scheduled. This is annoying enough when they are late on me. But my question is when we have a plan as a group and there is a danger of them making me late.

We have a family event coming up soon, where my husband and I will be staying with them for a period and attending a series of events in their company. I dread the idea of arriving continually ten minutes, thirty minutes, an hour late to the people who are expecting us, and to events I am looking forward to. I worry that being too insistent on timetables and getting after them too much to keep moving will make them think I’m a nag, or too controlling. Do you think it would be okay if, when the appointed time to leave has past, I cheerfully tell them that Husband and I are heading out and will meet them there when they arrive? Or do you have a better idea to keep to a respectable time table without coming off as rude or inflexible?


– Early bird

Dear Early Bird,

You nailed it when you suggested that you and your husband should make your own way to these events. Treat that like it’s Plan A, not a sacrifice you are making because of their lateness. Only mention your plans when you have your coats on, your keys in your hand, and are heading out the door – you’re informing them of the plan, not discussing or negotiating it. If you need some handy excuses, try: “We want to get there early/make a stop on the way/we might want to stay longer/leave sooner than you/we’d just rather take separate cars, thanks” and keep your tone friendly and light as you glide out the door.

Everyone in their extended family knows exactly how they are, you know how they are, your husband knows how they are, and I’m pretty sure they know how they are. They are of an age to have raised an adult child and are not suddenly going to change their habits. This is one of those times where you have the chance to just do what you need to do with the least amount of friction possible, so take the easy way!

Moderation Note: Thread closed. Turns out that my budget of fucks for reading contentious, self-righteous discussions about lateness and rudeness = zero fucks. 

Dear Captain,

I’m a recent college graduate and was interviewed yesterday on national TV about the field I’ve started working in. The other people on the panel were way more experienced than I, and some of them are are moderately famous. The program wanted a young voice/perspective, and I was so honored to be asked to do the kind of TV appearance a more senior colleague would normally do. I was also a little terrified and worked really hard to prepare.

The interview went great, and I left the studio walking on air. I felt I came across as confident and informed and that I had represented my employer, my field, and my generation (corny as it sounds) extremely well. I’ve never been so proud.

Then the interview aired and I stared horrified at my screen as my eyes narrowed in on the noticeable sweat marks under my arms. I can’t help but feel that what should have been such a professional joy is ruined by… armpit sweat. I feel so stupid for wearing a color that really showed it. Rookie wardrobe mistake. Rookie, sweat-inducing nerves.

The interview aired at a time most people I know were at work, but it can be streamed online starting today. Now I have a long list of proud friends, family, and former professors/mentors who are expecting a link to the online clip. My grad school program wants to share it on their social media account. I’m so embarrassed at the idea of all these people seeing it. I didn’t tell my parents I would be interviewed, because I wanted to surprise them with a link to the clip in clever email (note to self: not everything has to be clever). Now I’m just dreading my mother’s comments about what a shame it is I didn’t wear a darker color. Surely I’m not the first person this has happened to, but I also can’t recall having ever seen armpit sweat on TV, so part of me is also convinced that this was a uniquely stupid thing to let happen.

I’m also beating myself up for being so obsessed with my appearance and not able to get past it to be proud of my ideas and composure. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? How can I convince myself that my professional awesomeness trumps my sweatiness? How can I get past the feeling that the interview is ruined or somehow embarrassing and send it to friends and with pride?

Smart and Sweaty

Dear Smart & Sweaty,

The interview is done, and the clip is out on the internet now, and it can’t be undone or taken back. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t make reassuring “it’s not that bad!” noises your way, but I suggest that you show it to a trusted friend or mentor without mentioning the stains and see what they say. We all search our own appearances for flaws in a way that most other people do not.

I think you should share it and encourage others to share it without commenting on the stains at all and focus only on the content of the work. If anyone brings up the stains, a) that’s a pretty weird, rude thing for them to do, and b) I think you will feel much better if you find a way to play it off if it happens. “Wow, thanks for noticing! I was worried no one had.” “Would you call it a stain, or more of a river?” “Next time I’m going to wear that old bridesmaid’s dress, so that the stains really pop against the seafoam organza!’ “Yeah, thanks for pointing that out, Mom.” 

You have nothing to apologize for. You didn’t know it would happen. Your words were still your words. TV lights are hot. Sweat happens, you are a human being with glands. People who go on camera for a living have teams of paid professionals helping them look perfect. I feel gross for linking to this listicle on Celebrity Sweat Incidents especially since the tone is “they should take better care of this issue,” but I want you to have some visual aids that show that even people with tons of camera experience and teams of staff devoted to how they look are human and have glands. I also found this media training PDF for how to prepare yourself for a TV appearance from the University of New Haven that has, literally 100 separate tips for how to look and behave during a TV interview. I don’t want to panic you further by making you memorize 100 new things you should have done, but the takeaway is: Being comfortable on camera is complex and there is a learning curve to doing it.

Please stop beating yourself up! I suggest that you do some more TV appearances as soon as humanly possible. The more you appear on camera, the better you will get at it, the more variety of clips there will be, and the more you will become recognized as an authority who can handle themselves on camera. Please do not let this one quirk of biology shame you out of the excellent career you just beginning.

Dear Captain Awkward,

So yes, this is a happy problem. You’ve written well on work matters in the past, so I’m hoping you can help with this.

I have spent a few years in a frustrating job/environment, but started an excellent new job about three months ago. I am now a senior manager, with only two people above me in my specialism – the Exec Director, and the Deputy Director who is my line manager.

The job has been full on from the start, but I’m really enjoying the new opportunities and the trust, and as far as I can tell I’ve done well so far.

However, I just found something out which has thrown me slightly.

I thought I was one of four equal senior managers, with the others having more time in post. But this turns out not to be the case. Both of the Directors have told me that I am third in command, and that they appointed me with the intention of grooming me for the Deputy Director job in a few years. I can have (nearly) any training I want.

Woohoo, yes? And part of me really wants it, but part of me is petrified with the fear of failure. I am a nerdy/dorky/socially awkward woman – (still with substantial privilege, cis and white, and I read as upper middle class despite having grown up very poor). I have worked hard on the social awkwardness but it is still A Thing, and I have low confidence in my ability to be socially smooth. And the previous frustrating job has knocked my work confidence.

Social smoothness, and leadership skills, negotiation and influencing, and change management and all that stuff, are more and more important in the senior jobs. That’s what I need to learn in the next few years.

But how? I can do the technical part of my job, and standard line management, but….?

I am pleased they see potential in me, but I don’t see it myself. How do I avoid holding myself back?

How do I learn something so nebulous? How do I know if I’m getting better at them? How do I learn to get over my awkwardness and my assumptions that I am crap at these things? How do I develop a model of myself as a (nerdy, female) leader?

I don’t even have the tools to start to learn, or know what to look for in myself.

Please help!

Not A Leader

Dear Not A Leader,

You’re familiar with Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Good.

Your mentors have offered you training, which is wonderful, because it demonstrates that:

1) They don’t expect you to already be an expert in leadership/communications/management, etc.

2) They recognize that these are important skills unto themselves in addition to the technical competencies you possess.

3) They are building in time and a budget for you to level up these skills so that you will be ready when the time comes.

In other good news, there is training out there to be had. Since I don’t know exactly where you are, I did a Google search on “professional communications management training” to give you an idea of what kinds of things might be available.

You could study online (though I think you might find this very basic).

Harvard University has a ton of continuing education-type courses and seminars in the very subjects you want to learn, with titles like “Advanced Executive Communication Skills,” “Communicating With Influence: The Art of Persuasion,” “Cultural Competence for the Global Workplace,” etc. What’s the fanciest pantsiest business school closest to you, and do they offer such things? There’s no reason not to make this both a learning and a professional networking experience and get something shiny for your resume. There are tons of non-university affiliated training organizations that do this sort of thing, too, at every intensity and budget level. In addition, you could ask your mentors if they’ve ever taken courses that they think were particularly helpful in developing their management skills.

Conclusion: You’ve got this and you’re going to do great. This also seems like a good idea to watch & read a lot of epic sci-fi and fantasy stories where humble people who are convinced that they are not leaders become leaders.














48 thoughts on “#664, #665, #666, and #667: Four Questions From People Who Are Basically Fine

  1. Oh man! Media training is so hard. SO HARD. There is a reason why most people who go on camera are highly trained and get paid a lot (it’s because it’s so hard.) otherwise, actual field climatologists and professional political analysts would deliver the news and weather, and politics would be a lot more interesting, and a lot of people would be out of work… Because it’s a specific set of skills and behaviors that one has to memorise, and then pretend that one is not thinking about them at all.

    I do film interviews with scientists these days and tbh sweating happens to everyone. The lights are hot! As the Captain says: y’all got glands. It’s cool.

    Seriously, 666? I’m so proud of you, good job. That was not easy, and it sounds like you were pitched in at the deep end and came out with a gold medal.

    1. Yes, being on TV or being filmed really is a learning curve-thing. My first time, I saw myself after and had that reaction you get from hearing yourself singing on tape. Is that how I really sound? Kitteh noooo! But I promise it got better.

      1. I was on TV once, as an extremely self-conscious teenager, for a 10-minute human interest Valentine’s Day story. It was all about me and my boyfriend as HS sweethearts. Unfortunately, he was Darth Vader boyfriend, and I was beyond desperately trying to get away from him, and not succeeding because the whole school thought of us as destined for each other (hence why, when the TV station called, the school gave them our name as exemplary HS sweethearts). So out in the wilds (and probably in my parents’ video collection somewhere), is a ten minute tape of me as a sweaty, nervous wreck, being made to act lovey-dovey with someone I didn’t even want to be near any more. Including the most choreographed kiss in HS history. Seriously, they made us do six takes of the thing while they filmed from every angle. If I could find every copy to burn, I would.

    2. I don’t know if that kind of comment/advice is appropriate but I’m going to leave that here :

      I’ve worked with costume professionals for theater and movies, and to avoid the underarm stains on stage or on set, they often use sweat pads. They’re like panty liners, but for your armpits (and it’s not very glamorous, but if you can’t find sweat pads, panty liners will do fine as well). They work better than antiperspirant.

      So if you’re afraid this might happen again, that can be a solution.

    3. For school I have to videotape myself and then review the tapes in detail. It’s absolutely excruciating and I hate it. I wasn’t surprised by #666’s reaction, because if it were me I could be spouting solid gold wisdom and I’d still be like “NOPE, SHUT IT DOWN, NO ONE SEES THIS EVER.”

  2. LW1: Though all of the Captain’s options are possible, I would lean towards thinking that you’re fine and just getting to know each other. I had similar thoughts when I first started dating my boyfriend – there are people in my life I have longer and more in-depth conversations and more aligned pop culture interests with, and this in no way diminishes our relationship. We also don’t stay up all night talking like I did with some of my exes, but we still have the best connection I’ve ever known. I think it’s reasonable to give your connection a chance and see how it plays out. Plus, are some of these skype conversations? Because my boyfriend and I just became long distance and we definitely sometimes don’t know what to talk about on skype, and it’s often just catching up and relatively brief conversations plus some silly smiling at the camera and trying to make “eye contact”.

    1. Yes, I agree with 30ish. I’ve also found that communication is more of a spectrum than is generally acknowledged. Game of Thrones is a great example for this: I have friends where our conversations about the show are literally just all caps, high pitched “CAN YOU BELIEVE THE THING THAT HAPPENED AHHHH,” I have conversations with another friend that are feminist critiques, the conversations with my boyfriend tends to lean more towards character analysis. And at one point I would have thought “not all of these conversations are equal,” but you know what? They are. It’s all about hitting your communication stride in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) and I think maybe your jerkbrain is freaking out that you haven’t hit that stride yet, when really you just need more time for things to fall into place.

      1. It took me a really long time to realize this, but… my boyfriend is not my friend-friend. I want different things from that relationship, and that’s OK. In friend-friends, I optimize for brilliant thinkers who push me intellectually and politically, and make me laugh until I cramp up– but I don’t care about how they manage their money. In partners, I optimize for goofy, kind people who have compatible goals and make me feel safe and supported– but I don’t need them to blow my mind conceptually on a regular basis. It’s easy for me to fall into the idea that romantic relationships don’t count unless they fill EVERY need to the MAX, but actually we get to have more than one important relationship in our lives. It’s okay for different relationships to be good in different ways, and it’s okay for an important need to come from someone other than your romantic partner.

        (I’m bi, so I also get jerkbrain from both sides. When boyfriends are different than my [mostly female] friends, the relationships are bad because it’s not like it’s a REAL friendship, it’s just a web of horniness and heterosexist role models. When girlfriends are similar to my other female friends, the relationships don’t count because it’s just bffs with kissing, not REAL romance.)

  3. LW #667, I would recommend AGAINST reading or watching sci-fi and fantasy in the hopes of learning How To Be A Leader for the simple reason that IT’S FICTION. Those characters … well, they aren’t real. They only exist, they only succeed, they only do anything because an author wrote them that way. You don’t have an author looking out for you; modeling yourself on someone who only gets by because their universe was literally made for them to succeed isn’t a recipe for success.

    1. I did not mean that as a serious alternative to management training. More of a drinking game where you drink every time a superhero who is between pretty good and great at most things (like our dear LW) undervalues themselves and says “But I can’t possibly lead!”

      1. Or! If you’re into historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell’s stock main character (Sharpe, Thomas of Hookton, Uhtred Ragnarson, etc.) will always, ALWAYS be a great leader who cannot possibly lead because [REASONS], and then leads to excellent effect.

    2. Finding a fictional character you identify with on some level can be a real-life kick in the pants. If Princess Bubblegum can create candy zombies and run a kingdom and everything else she does, I’m capable of filing my taxes correctly! (and so on)

  4. #667, I don’t know how possible this is for you, but in your leadership training courses, try to identify women (maybe women who are leading the course) who you like and respect and who also seem to be like you. I went to a leadership training and we all did personality profiles (which, whatever, but it seemed to work for me) and one of the female course leaders had a very similar style and personality profile to mine. She talked at length, as did some of the other people, about how their styles affected their management skills, people skills, etc.

    If you can find a female role model like that, it’s inspiring. I didn’t ask her to be a more formal contact for me, but if there is someone you feel you connect with, there’s nothing wrong with asking if you can pick their brain about leadership styles, questions, etc., at some point.

    1. I went to a “communication skills for women” seminar last year, and found it somewhat helpful. It addressed issues that women often have trouble with like how to take the floor during meetings, how to stop people from interrupting you, and how to stand up to mean people. Something like that might be helpful for you!

  5. As someone who tends to be chronically late (largely because: anxiety), I echo the Captain’s advice to LW2. I am usually excruciatingly aware if my own lateness is also screwing up other people’s plans. It becomes part of my own internal monologue, which stresses me out even more and exacerbates my anxiety, creating a feedback loop of doom that can easily ruin my day (and possibly everyone else’s).

    I really appreciate it when people construct plans in such a way that I’m only responsible for myself, and I extra love it when they make it clear to me that they aren’t judging me and are sensitive to the fact that things that are easy for some people can be inexplicably, ridiculously difficult for me. (Example: “We got a table already, can I order you something?”)

    I do want to add a general comment to everyone who has internalized that narrative about how “being late is disrespectful”. Please stop doing that. Treating my punctuality as a referendum on how much I like you is inaccurate, as well as misery-inducing for everyone involved. Not everyone is good at getting specific places at specific times, for a variety of reasons. It’s not always a skill we can learn, or something we can fix.

    It took me years to figure out that a huge part of my problem is anxiety, and much of that time was spent beating myself up for being a huge jerk, because of the “if you really cared about me, you wouldn’t be late” thing. The additional pressure of “I am a terrible person and my friend is going to think I hate them” doesn’t really help anything.

    (See also: canceling on things and being called a “flake”. Sorry, sometimes I don’t have spoons. Sometimes, because I really want to do a thing, I don’t admit to myself until the last minute that I don’t have the spoons to do it. My friends are sympathetic to this and don’t lay guilt trips on me because of it. Being able to forgive myself for it and move on is a huge factor in doing it less frequently.)

    1. Infinity+ to this.

      I’m late due to the combined effects of AD(H)D and anxiety. If I’m not anxious, I’m distracted, but not because I don’t love you or respect your time!

    2. Anxiety. Yes.

      I’ve realised lately how I came to be a person who always arrives at the last minute, particularly when they’re not certain of their welcome: I was bullied at school, and coming early meant having to endure fun games that ended with my things being kicked around, spilled, and oh, dear, dropped in puddles. Being right on time or a couple of minutes late meant that the teacher was there already and I was safe for the time being.

      (it also took me years to drop the optimism that a journey taken on average 15 mins would always take no more than 15 mins).

      It’s a lousy habit to carry in adulthood, but I’m suddenly feeling much more forgiving of my younger self.

    3. Came here to say something similar. My lateness has nothing to do with anyone else. It happens because it happens. I am much more likely to be late to things that I think will be fun, because instead of freaking out about any part of it, I am relaxed and anticipating enjoyment, and for me part of that is not stressing out about being on time–because Being On Time is a significant source of stress for me. When someone has to make my lateness about them, A) are they serious? and B) whatever I was planning to do with them becomes less fun in direct proportion to how much pressure they put on me.

      1. But you being late does make it significantly about them. They’re spending 15 or 30 or however many minutes basically doing nothing but waiting for you… It can be extremely hard to deal with, especially if it’s subtracting from time they would have spent doing something else. (waiting to enter an exhibit would be worse for me than, say, holding a seat in the movie theater.).
        That being said, I have friends who are chronically late and I work around them and lie about start times and plan things where waiting is not awful so I’m not annoyed or bored when they show up so it’s not the worse thing in the world at all. I can’t change who they are so I plan around it and don’t complain to them – they know.
        But it’s a lot of extra consideration on my part, though of course if I’m doing it it’s because they’re worth it.

        1. I think that’s the key – if you have someone in your life who’s generally late, you don’t like that, and you want to keep them in your life, then the two of you need to figure out a solution that meets both people’s needs, such as the different things you suggested.

          Unfortunately what I see frequently is the non-late person never using their words effectively and just getting frustrated and/or shouty, and then frustrated that the shoutiness doesn’t fix anything, ad infinitum. I assume a similar cycle happens in the usually-late person that is similarly not helping.

        2. As you said, people with chronic punctuality issues know that it annoys others and it is considered rude. It holds them back professionally and socially, and they tend to carry a lot of shame and anxiety about it, which makes the whole thing worse. I’m glad you have workarounds with your friends. Keep doing that thing.

          I’m closing comments, b/c the queue is full of “late people are SO RUDE” and “But don’t you see that I really struggle to make my brain work differently?” and very few attempts to see the other person’s point of view. Liberal-minded people like me and like most who read this site share a common fallacy that if we just logic at someone enough about something that they will agree with us. This is one of those times that it’s not the case. It’s not going to get solved here, today, so consider the forums, people with strong opinions either way. They have a team of mods and not one cranky lady with deadlines.

  6. #655: I had a friend in college who was always late to everything. Classes, lectures, meals, movie dates, etc. No matter how excited she was for it, there was no way she would ever be there on time. It became Group Protocol to tell her to show up 30 minutes before the rest of us planned to get together. After that, she ended up always being on time! Everyone else was happy that they didn’t have to wait for her, and she was happy that she was no longer being nagged about being late. I’m not sure she ever figured out why no one was complaining about it anymore, but it worked out well for all of us.

      1. It can be, but I think it depends on the situation. We had already tried talking to her about it extensively, and that didn’t work out. She didn’t have her own transportation and we didn’t want to leave her out, and this is the only solution that made everyone happy. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first choice, but when you’ve exhausted every other option and you want to find a way to include them without inconveniencing others, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to find adaptations to how they do things instead of just leaving them out.

      2. I think it can be, but it can also be a way to afford the time-challenged person some cushion. Just like, I don’t know, offering to carry a heavy package for someone… whether it comes across as condescending is very context-dependent.

        Thinking about it, “infantilizing” carries an interesting implication, like: “any human being who is not a baby should be able to do this without help, this is like Adulting 101 here, seriously.”

        In reality I think that accommodating and adapting to each other’s needs isn’t weird, it’s just how friendship works. If you bring soup to a sick friend or choose a restaurant that’s accessible so a friend in a wheelchair can come along, no one would read that as infantilizing them. The important thing is that the workaround works for everyone, instead of breeding silent resentment.

        I’ve had people in my life, over the years, who were unable to let go of the “you being late means you secretly hate me” narrative, and I eventually found that the best thing for both of us was to accept that we were not compatible as friends. It’s 100% okay if lack of punctuality is a deal-breaker, but wow do we have a bizarre cultural/moral narrative about it. (Something about capitalism, the cult of productivity, time==money, and punching your timecard at the factory, no doubt…)

        1. Obviously that isn’t always the case, but 90% of my experiences have been with people saying “Oh, Cumbersnatch Humperwhale is always late, let’s just lie to his face and tell him it starts an hour earlier than it really does. It’s the best thing for everyone.” And maybe it really is the best, but it just feels yucky to me.

          I agree with the incompatibility. As an on time or early-person I find it best to be acquaintances or low grade-friends with the time-challenged. It feels better for me than lying.

  7. The problem with seeing or hearing recordings of yourself, #666, is that you already know what you did, and you know you’re not going to learn anything from what you had to say, so instead of concentrating on what video-you is talking about – which is what everyone else is doing – you’re concentrating on anything else you can find. I suspect some people will notice the sweat-marks, and they will probably not be fussed, because let’s face it, humans sweat. But most people will be concentrating on what you and your fellow panelists are saying and your body language, and if you went to them and said “You know I had awful sweat marks in that clip you just watched” they’d go “Oh, did you? I didn’t really look.”

  8. What does the Dunning-Krueger effect have to do with that letter? It’s the exact opposite of Impostor Syndrome — it’s where you think you’re better than you are, usually because you’re a big fish in a small pond.

    Also, regarding late people…I feel like there are two kinds of folks in the world, those who make a huge deal out of lateness and those who don’t. I personally am of the latter persuasion; I think there are way ruder things to do than to be a bit late, and because of just how many circumstances can cause lateness, I think people should just deal. After all, why yes, I *do* value 30 minutes of my own time at home over tapping my foot somewhere less nice and comfortable because I got there too early, or over your not having to wait five minutes. Some people will call that selfish, maybe it is, but I despise sitting around being bored. I also have no problem if others are late, because if I already arrived somewhere, it’s not like I have anything better to do than stand around for a little while. Someone will always be late. It’s a rule of life. So I just don’t let it bother me. I personally feel that being mad about someone’s lateness falls into the same category nowadays as being mad that someone didn’t say “thank you” upon having someone hold the door for them. It’s a slight social faux pas, but you’re getting too worked up if you care that much.

    Tip: if you want late people to be on time, just tell them to arrive at an earlier time than you intend.

    I’m considering “lateness” here to be like…5-10 minutes. Once 15 has crossed, you get into “well we might miss an event” or “the person may not even be coming” territory, and that’s less okay.

    1. Part of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that highly competent people underestimate their competence. From the link in the OP: “The authors found that when researchers presented subjects with moderately difficult tasks, the best and the worst performers actually varied little in their ability to accurately predict their performance. Additionally, they found that with more difficult tasks, the best performers were less accurate in predicting their performance than the worst performers.”

    2. “After all, why yes, I *do* value 30 minutes of my own time at home over tapping my foot somewhere less nice and comfortable because I got there too early, or over your not having to wait five minutes. Some people will call that selfish, maybe it is, but I despise sitting around being bored. I also have no problem if others are late, because if I already arrived somewhere, it’s not like I have anything better to do than stand around for a little while.”

      Actually, I think this could also describe how people feel when their friends are chronically late. (Hell, I get stressed if I’m leaving the house later than I think I should, and even I don’t get the point to arriving somewhere 30 minutes *early.*) So when my friends are running late, I appreciate an update just for those reasons outlined. If I have an extra 20 minutes to kill, my house is more comfortable for me too! I can spend the extra time getting ready at a more leisurely pace or doing a chore.

      Maybe for Alcor waiting after getting to the place is better than leaving home later. For me it depends. I can kill time at a shopping mall, but if it’s a train station or somewhere where I have to stand outside… However, I totally agree with telling people to come early. 🙂 No shame in a little cunning!

  9. Dear LW #664: It’s only a problem if it’s a problem.

    Which is not meant to be gnomic, I swear! But, basically, if it’s a dealbreaker or a big deal for either of you to have this particular kind of interaction in your romance, that’s a problem.

    If the two of you don’t have ENOUGH interest and style overlap to keep an enjoyable and interesting interaction going, then it’s a problem.

    If you have tons to do and say together but there’s also tons of stuff you do with other people, then that’s not a problem.

    In general my experience is that structural definitions of relationships (if it HAS X, Y, and Z, it is This Kind Of Relationship) aren’t as useful as functional ones (if it DOES X, Y, and Z [for each person’s own personal variables] then it is The Kind I Want To Keep Having).

    Is this the kind of relationship you want to keep having, give or take the odd bit of mutually-negotiated tweaking?

  10. LW#4 – 2 years ago I spent a year in leadership training within my organisation. We are a global company of c. 6000 people and I was one of 13 people to be selected as one of our Leaders Of The Future. When we first got together as a group, the one thing we all had in common was that we all felt that we didn’t really deserve to be there, and we all had issues with our confidence. So it is definitely not unusual to feel this way! Over the course of that year we all learned a lot, had a great time, and built connections (ones that I still call on – and go out for drinks with! – two years down the line). I also grew in confidence, partly due to the training but a lot of it was down to talking to other people and realising that most people don’t ever really think of themself as a leader – you just do leadership-y things and you get better at it the more you practice. The most useful module of the course that I did was an amazing opportunity to go to China and talk to business leaders from a variety of other industries about what it’s like to lead in their organisations. We met people with such a variety of leadership styles, which really helped me to understand what kind of leader I wanted to be (there were two women in particular, both running big tech divisions of global companies, who were brilliant, energetic and ethical).

    Our trip was arranged by a company called Leader’s Quest (http://www.leadersquest.org) and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap, but it was brilliant. They do run quests where they bring together groups of individuals, but if that is impossible, then perhaps you could work with your bosses to get in touch with leaders of other businesses in your local area to talk about their experience of leading. They may have people they’re training up too who would be interested in your Exec Director’s take on leading, so it could even be a “you speak to my team member, I speak to yours” arrangement that wouldn’t cost anything – plus everyone likes to be asked to give their expert opinion! I would say that it helps if the leaders are from other industries as it helps you to concentrate on the leadership aspect rather than the business one, if that makes sense!

    I’d also recommend finding a good mentor, someone you admire who is willing to talk some of this through with you, and building your network of professional contacts (not necessarily “networking”, but finding people you can really talk to and trust!).

  11. Dear Smart and Sweaty – one time a news piece was done on my lab because… I don’t know. Something that had been developed before I started there suddenly got noticed. Anyway, the department head got to do an interview in his very posh office with the news person, and then the cameras just kind of floated around the lab space looking for footage of GROUND-BREAKING SCIENCE to intersperse the segment with. I was at my desk and not doing science, so I didn’t pay much attention. Which turned out to be a fatal flaw, because on a national news program there was suddenly a clip of me, slouching at my desk with Hello Kitty headphones on, writing fanfiction on my work computer. If I could trade you for those sweaty pits, I would.

    But it’s amazing what people don’t notice. We were all on tenterhooks the day after the program aired due to the multiple health and safety violations in the lab footage (everything from my headphones, to someone eating while sciencing). Very few people watch something with the intent to find flaws, and if you’re talking about something with expertise then most of the attention is going to be on understanding you. I’m glad that you feel good about your contribution because I’m sure that’s what people will focus on 🙂

  12. “Not A Leader” might enjoy checking out the website http://www.succeedsocially.com. It’s organized topically, so you can pick and choose based on your time/interest/level of anxiety. Of course there’s tons of great stuff on this blog, too, so excellent choice to write in. 😀

  13. As for lateness, you make a deal with yourself once-and-for-all-style –how long you are willing to invest in overtime, and then cut loose at that point.

    I will generally give ten minutes or so. If I stay any longer–I blame myself.

    The thing I’ve learned about late people, is they don’t get upset if you cut-loose nearly as much it upsets you that they were late. So cut-loose!

    The worst for me was in my early 30s, trying to leave my SO’s parents’ house who live a long-weekends drive away… The extended goodbyes, on the door step — are casual and typical, then a quick mention of Aunty Doris, which segues into a trip down memory lane that segues into a dissertation on local family lore… Town history…Ungh?

    I’m too polite to say, come on… It’s a four hour drive, and at every turn the conversation seems to be on the verge of wrapping up anyway. I’m like a tongue-tied radio host not sure where to step in. This is a kind of “lateness” I despise. The I thought we were already-ready lateness. Like when the host sets the meal down, then disappears indefinitely behind a screen and we thought it was tea time but feel rude to start.

    We’ve now done the French two-cheek kiss-thing (Québec) 3 separate times over the last hour thinking, at the time.. That was it! And again, some mention of a way loose thread and they are back jazzing about old time family tales, health stories and births, I know none of the characters, trying to be polite coz they’re all *Doctors* and hey, these are my SO’s parents, and they see each other less.

    Finally, 90 minutes going through our goodbyes!. Made more compromising since my SO had withdrawn and not said a word the entire weekend as I tried holding my own around her French-speaking family.

    This happened on several occasions and I felt powerless.

    Today, having read CA, I would at the then minute mark have announced confidantly according to some plan: “Hey, you guys still have some stuff to chortle about, I am.going to just stretch my legs before the LOOOONG drive (sigh) home.”

    1. Oh man, the endless goodbye. My parents and I tend to fall into that without thinking (of course).

      A while back I just mentioned that I had noticed it and wanted to stop, so at some point I would start announcing “ok, leaving now!” and then hugs and I was out the door. The first time or two it felt a little abrupt and rude, but That faded. I’ll even reference it specifically (“no Minnesota goodbyes, folks”). Might be harder with inlaws though. 😐

  14. LW #667: I highly recommend reading through the archives of http://www.getbullish.com/. I have zero connection whatsoever, but her stuff is tailor-made for people in your position, and she’s an excellent (nerdy + female) writer to boot.

    1. I didn’t notice before posting that a previous commenter had linked to the same author (I looked for Bullish but not Jen Dziura). Sorry for the double recommendation!

  15. My local extended-family-by-marriage has that one relative, who is nice and kind and funny and thoughtful and late to ALL THE THINGS. Including the potluck things to which she is bringing a food thing. And the non-potluck things that include things that have to happen by a certain time because most of us (not this relative) have to get up and go work at half past thing in the morning.

    So when the family phone tree starts humming for family gatherings, we all conspire to tell her that the gathering starts an hour earlier than it actually does. She’s on time, the food isn’t gone/cold, she can participate in all the things, and everybody is happy.

    Has anybody actually told her that this is what we do? Heck no. She’s too old and has too many troubles to be obsessing over changing this one habit at this stage of her life. We just…adjust.

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