Correcting people’s’ grammer



via Brainless Tales



Who did you send that to?


This sentence is grammatically incorrect. It seems innocuous enough, but it is wrong. What to do?

Should you correct people’s use of who versus whom, misusing literally, or saying nucular? This is an interesting social phenomenon—many people have very strong feelings about correcting other people’s language use. The company Grammarly recently posted a poll to its twitter feed asking:

It immediately struck me: share thought-hold thoughtthis is a total share your thoughts ~ hold your thoughts scenario!

There are times when it is helpful and expected to share your thoughts with others, and there are times when it will be considered rude and could upset people. So when do you hold which thoughts?

First, let’s look at the results:

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Audience… It’s Complicated



A hospital? What is it?

Watching that scene from Airplane, it’s pretty clear to most folks that Elaine knows what a hospital is. When she asks, What is it? she means something like What’s the matter with the woman who needs to go to the hospital? Dr. Rumack assumes What is it? refers to what a hospital is… but of course she knows! That’s what makes this scene funny.

But generally, how can you be sure of what your audience knows and doesn’t know? This exchange between Rumack and Elaine is a funny example of when someone assumes another person doesn’t have knowledge about something they clearly do.

So when you’re having a conversation, just how do you figure out how much detail to go into? You might explain too much, like Dr. Rumack, and give information that your audience already knows. Or you might not explain enough and talk over their head.

Self-advocate Kirsten Lindsmith has a good post about the impact of this dilemma on her social interactions.

If I don’t stop to explain, I inevitably say something that my audience doesn’t understand, and I lose their interest, or worse, seem rude. But when I over-explain, I come off as annoying and condescending!

via The Little Professor is Compensating for Something: Theory of Mind and Pedantic Speech | The Artism Spectrum

Balance Explain & Skim

It’s important to explain your ideas to people who may not know—they don’t have all the same knowledge that you do.

Yet it’s also important to not go into too much detail—you can’t explain every single detail.

How do you do both? Strike a balance!


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The most important lesson for most things: balance.


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I recently got an email from a company trying to convince me to pay for their email reminder service. The first line was:

The most important lesson you can learn when starting a sales career: persistence.

To be fair, I don’t have anything like a sales career, so I don’t claim to be an expert on such things. But I do think that advice is misguided. If you focus exclusively on persistence, you run the risk of being overbearing. I imagine there are people who would be more likely to buy something if that salesperson just backed off!

Instead of focusing on persistence, I believe the better advice is to always consider striking a balance. In this case, it’s a matter of finding a balance between, on the one hand:


and on the other hand:


This is a fairer and likely to be more effective to help you get what you want, and make other people around you happy.

Persistence – or patience – to the extreme



You can’t enter every interaction with the mindset that you will persist at all costs. What about checking in on a professor who’s agreed to write you a letter of recommendation: if you send follow-up emails day after day asking when it’s going to be done, the professor might get so annoyed that she’ll change her mind and not write the letter. So much for persistence! All that did was pester her.



But by contrast, you can’t only be patient and trusting. When arguing with Time Warner Cable to lower your ridiculously expensive monthly bill, keep pushing! Ask to speak to a supervisor, then another supervisor if necessary until your expectations are met. There are indeed times when persisting is necessary.

It really comes down to striking a balance between persistence and patience. You figure out how much to “lean” in one way or the other in different situations by considering the context.

Balance in all things

Any time someone uses the phrase “the most important lesson is,” it should be following with “a balance between…” Just about all advice—even good advice—can be misinterpreted or misapplied and taken to the extreme. Instead of thinking, “In my life, I always need to x” I believe more people will be helped by thinking, “In my life, I need to find the balance between x and y.” There’s a lot of space in between, and that’s where people end up the most successful and satisfied.

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For an explanation of the Balance Challenge framework, see Balance Breakdown, always accessible on the top navigation bar.

Achieving Balance During Testing


A special post for teachers

Today thousands of students in New York City finished up their state ELA exams and are preparing for next week’s math tests. Some terrific teachers in upstate New York wrote encouraging messages on the sidewalks outside their school to inspire their students.

It’s a really sweet gesture. I want to point out a probably unintended contradiction: the first photo says “Relax,” and the second says, “Be the best you can be.” Can you be both? It’s a lot of pressure to be the absolute best as you can be—how easy is it to relax when being your best?

To me, it seems that it’s more about striking a balance, in this case between relaxing and working hard.

relax-work hard

We looked at this balance in an earlier post. In these weeks of testing, this is the focus to take with students, particularly those with ASD. It’s not a time to cram in more test prep. instead, we can prepare students to be mentally ready for testing week.

For students who think concretely, like those on the autism spectrum, overall statements like “do your best” could be sources of stress, and reassuring comments like “relax” maybe be taken to an unintended extreme.

One the one hand, teachers want students to relax and approach the tests with a cool head… but not to relax so much that they don’t give good effort.

And we want them to recognize it’s important to work hard at something that matters… but not so hard that it makes them anxious and nervous.

To help students strike the balance, introduce the scale rather than giving blanket statements to all kids. Think about where each student tends to fall on the scale:

  • For the students who take it too easy, encourage them to focus and put some effort into their work
  • For kids who work too hard and stress themselves out, work on calming strategies to help them relax

Congratulations to the students and their hard-working/relaxing teachers (especially those at @LaureltonPardee)! And best of luck to everyone again next week next week!

For an explanation of the Balance Challenge framework, see Balance Breakdown, always accessible on the top navigation bar.