When generalisations are unhelpful

Tuesday, 30th July, 2013

bigstock-road-map-vector-29941610Have you ever been on the receiving end of a comment, such as ‘Women can’t read maps’?

Or ‘Men don’t listen’

And when was the last time you were the perpetrator of such a comment; e.g. …‘You never offer to help me with household jobs!’

Or ‘You’re always late!’

If you’re on the receiving end of such generalisations it can result in anger or frustration, and often a retaliatory comment.

But wait … Generalisations are a helpful way of making sense of the world.

As a child you would have been told the name of objects, such as door, spoon, ball, etc. … and then these labels would be given to other doors, spoons, balls, which were different but you’d work out that they shared common features. Then eventually you would be able to label other doors using this new found knowledge, without anyone telling you!

So our ability to generalise saves us from re-learning things over and over again.

It’s when we make generalisations about human behaviour that it can get us into trouble!

Avoiding Generalisations – Short Video

Some tips …

If you hear yourself making generalisations, listen out for the verbal clues that can accompany them.

For example: use of the following words … all, every, never, always

  • He/She never delivers a good presentation
  • Every time I make a suggestion, you ignore it
  • always receive negative feedback when I try to introduce something new

This unhelpful language often limits us to take action, move forward, choose something different, and see the positive actions of others.

So, whenever  you hear yourself making general statements, ask yourself the following:

  • What never? / Always? / Every time?
  • How helpful is this statement to me?

Which unhelpful generalisations have you heard or made recently?

How have you dealt with generalisations directed at you?


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Thank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in you.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.