Friday, January 20, 2012

Pruning

I've been reading some really interesting books lately, including two by Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science who revolutionized animal movement systems, and has become, in no small part because of her own autism, an advocate for autism.

In The Way I See It, which I read a couple of weeks ago, Grandin offers parents and teachers specific, practical advice on helping young people on the autism spectrum. The articles collected for the book were originally published in Autism-Asperger's Digest Magazine, but they're extremely readable and quite interesting. I'm currently reading Grandin's The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism; I haven't gotten too far yet, but Grandin has really impressed me with her accessible style of writing.

I'm also currently reading The Blessings of a B Minus (I tend to have at least one book downstairs, and one book upstairs), written by Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and parenting expert. Again, I haven't gotten too far in Mogel's book, but one excerpt struck me as interesting and explanatory; I was reminded of hearing something similar in an adolescent psychology class I took as an undergrad:

Over the past twenty years, neuroscientists have learned that the teenage brain radically changes its structure in adolescence. There is a beautiful scientific term for the process of brain development that occurs betwee age ten and puberty: exuberance. This period of vigorous production of brain cells is followed, between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, by a period of pruning them back, when the gray matter thins dramatically. The brain becomes more streamlined and effecient. But the frontal lobes, the areas of the brain responsible for rationality and modulatio of impilses and desires, do not reach full development for girls until age twenty-four or twenty-five and or boys until age twenty-nine. Judgment and wisdom, or in the language of neuropsychologists, executive functions, live in the part of the brain that is last to mature. (Mogel 22)

This might explain why the late teens and early twenties are still so difficult for so many of us, why it might be difficult to keep one's temper and emotions in check, even when we're expected to act more like adults.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Critique

For a number of years, I worked in a series of jobs that had me working for bosses who were, for lack of a better description, truly nasty people. They argued with co-workers, were unnecessarily and often accusatory, changing their minds such that the thing that you were doing right one day was wrong the next; more often than not, their arguing and accusations were public, done in front of departments or co-workers. This is especially disturbing behavior when one can't quite tell what will upset a supervisor, so I have learned not to be as proactive as I should, because such questions were historically more often than not reasons for disparagement.

Even as an adult, I struggle with shyness and a lack of self-confidence; even though it's been years since I worked for anyone who was truly inconsiderate or unkind, I still find myself wary of authority; it still takes me some time to trust co-workers. I don't gossip or talk about my co-workers - not good reasons for connectingwith co-workers anyway - and generally just keep to myself.

That's not always a good thing. There's something to be said for networking and chatting with one's co-workers, but I still have trouble making the jump, and I have to make a concerted effort to make eye contact and smile (instead of just looking down at my feet, which I have to admit is still my default mode).

I need to work on being more proactive and organized in some aspects of my work; I need to learn to try to connect with my boss (at least in one of my jobs) and engage her in conversation a bit more (difficult to do, because although she's never been unpleasant, she doesn't seem especially interested in talking to me).

Not every critique will automatically lead to dismissal from one's job, and logically I know this to be true, but it's been hard-wired into my head that there will not be any warning, that I will lose any one of my badly-needed jobs because of some aspect of my performance that I could have improved. Not everyone wants to see me fail - something I've witnessed at previous positions - so I have to just resolve to do a better, more thorough job in some situations.