I’m Not Pattern Blind

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I’ve heard you talk about “Pattern Blindness” in the same sentence as “Speaking the Unspeakable.” Can you say more, please? 

Here is my issue. I am beyond frustrated and stressed with my boss who is always saying the same things over and over. He loves to talk about himself and brag about all his successes. 

And yes, the business is a success and I am well paid.

However, he’s definitely blind to his patterns.

Then when there is a problem it gets blamed on the first person who is in view.

Sadly, that is me, the guy who does most of the work and gets all the calls late at night.

I guess we play into each other’s patterns because I have not ever, and that means in 6 years, ever spoken the unspeakable (that when he starts the blame game, he drives me nuts and I keep thinking I will quit this damn job and never talk with him again).

I just smile, stuff my upset, and fix his messes.

I guess I’m not pattern blind, since I see what I am doing.

What do I need to learn to do to “speak the unspeakable?” 



Dear Need HELP,

Glad you can see the issue at hand. Here are some thoughts about what really matters in leadership development and executive education.

Becoming Pattern Aware is important and is relatively easy to learn. Just take the Leadership Quiz to see where you have behaviors that need to change. Here is a link to the quiz.

Learning to “speak the unspeakable” is probably the most complex issue of working together and one of the most vital parts of emotional intelligence. 

When we were little kids, we had to be trained OUT of saying exactly what we saw, heard, or felt.

If you thought your uncle looked funny with his shiny bald head (before it became fashionable) and you pointed and laughed, most likely you were shushed and told that was not polite. 

Or when your mom was looking sad and you asked, “What’s the matter?” and you were told, “Oh nothing, and don’t ask again.” Yet, you saw her wiping tears when she thought no one was looking. And you asked again and heard “I’m FINE!” and like most kids, you decided to stuff your feelings and play the family game of “Let’s Pretend.”

I think that social media is giving many folks an outlet for speaking the unspeakable. However, they are still usually NOT talking directly to the one who is driving them crazy. 

Question: What do you say to your boss?

Here is a suggestion. Tell him how you are feeling. Do not, I repeat, do not tell him what a “pattern blind” jerk he is. 

Here are some thoughts that may help. 

“I really respect your success (you said he brags about successes, so start there) and I am glad we work so well together most of the time and the business is so successful. (and that is your truth).

However, my nature is to say “yes” whenever you need extra help and sometimes, I really want to say, “not now” and I really have to get better at speaking my truth. 

So, when I do speak the truth to you and if it is upsetting, let’s talk about it. Cause right now I’m looking at how to make relationships at work be the best they can be and my relationship with you really matters.”

Put this into your own words, this is just to give you some direction on how to communicate.

To your success,


P.S. You will get even more tips and tools from watching this masterclass about how to practice safe stress in tough times. It’s about what you need to do to make your life less stressful and chaotic and calmer.

Sylvia Lafair