Cause & Effect: Red Flags

Cause & Effect: The Red Flags by: Erin Cummings

I fired our pool contractor after 9 months, and while you might not give a shit at all, what I want you to give a shit about is why.


It’s not that I expect complete honesty from every one all the time, I know sometimes holding back truthful statements or not telling all of the truth can save people from hurt or other things. I’m finding more and more what I value most is transparency. Being human and having the human experience means mistakes are made, and when we make mistakes we acknowledge them. 


Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a situation - maybe a relationship with a friend, your job, dealing with a parent, with a partner, being in a contractual relationship?!  Or, maybe you were stuck and you finally got out, only to look back and think wow I can’t believe I didn’t do anything about this sooner? This is the exact feeling I’m talking about.


This isn’t the first time it will happen to me, nor I’m guessing will it be the last, but I find myself getting better at recognizing the red flags. It’s not about seeing the red flags clearly, I’ve come to realize it’s how they make me FEEL that is the difference. 


I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Talking To Strangers, a few years ago. The book mostly focuses on how we as humans default to truth, the only point I would disagree here is except for when it comes to victims or the minority experience, but that conversation isn’t for this blog.


When someone answers a question you ask, or gives you an update about something, you believe them…. until you don’t. It’s that single point in which you have a shift in mindset. 



“I’m going to come back to the distinction between some doubts and enough doubts, because I think it’s crucial. Just think about how many times you have criticized someone else, in hindsight, for their failure to spot a liar. You should have known. There were all kinds of red flags. You had doubts. Levine would say that’s the wrong way to think about the problem. The right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Talking To Strangers



Here’s the thing: there is no big overall cause. It’s a ton of tiny instances, or even a few big misunderstandings that have culminated into a red flag of disbelief. It made me pause.


What I’m not saying: the moment that happens, you break up with whoever, you quit your job, you shut something down. What I’m asking you to do is get curious about what happens next, take the pause. Ask yourself what is the outcome I want with the knowledge I have.

Owning a small business during the small business, while has been a serious mental and physical struggle, it taught me that I only know what I know. I only can use the knowledge that I actually have. Whether it’s data, strategy, information about whatever…I can only do what I am capable of, because that’s what I know. 

Same thing here, if you only know red flags with default to truth, you are doing exactly what you can. But, the moment those flags turn to a change in perception it’s time to get curious.

What happens now….good question. While we have no pool, I’d rather that than deal with that headache/stress/outrage over and over again. Even when dealing with a contractor, company, whatever you and your voice matters.

I get that not everything should be easy, but it also shouldn’t be past the point of your threshold hard. I’m all for a challenge, but not when it gets beyond my control. 

It’s not about are there enough red flags, it’s about was there one that made you shift your perspective. It doesn’t matter how many came before that. What matters is that you take that pause and reflect. 

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