Managing The Deceptive Cadence In Your Day

While working on a presentation for a client using Beatles song titles to make the key points, I came across an interesting musical term: Deceptive Cadence. Musically defined, it refers to a cadence (chord sequence) in which the dominant resolves to a harmony rather than the tonic. You can hear it on such Beatles songs as A Day In The Life, Ticket To Ride, and We Can Work It Out. You can also hear an example of a chord progression with deceptive cadence by clicking here.

An oversimplified way of looking at deceptive cadence is that it refers to what occurs when the listener assumes the next chord, or melody note, will go somewhere it doesn't. You can begin to see why I quickly connected the term to what sometimes happens in the "score" of our day:

  • A conference call that was expected to go 30 minutes goes on for 90 minutes
  • A staff meeting that would only take 15 minutes wound up taking almost 2 hours
  • Your supervisor just made a request of your time that will force you to put your previous top priorities on hold for the rest of the day
  • An accident on the highway has slowed traffic to a crawl, and your trip will take twice as long as expected

What I found interesting about deceptive cadence is that it's actually desired in music score because it adds variety and fresh energy to the music. It causes the listener to focus more intensely on the music, because they expect the chord to return to the normal progression... and it doesn't. Learning this caused me to wonder, "How can I turn the frustration of the deceptive cadence that appears in my day into something of positive... or at least not get so frustrated by its presence?" My list included:

  • Recognize that some things are just out of my control.
  • Seek out the cause of the distraction or unexpected event, and see if there is a way I could prevent it from occurring in the future.
  • If the unexpected is created by someone else, take the initiative to talk with them about its negative impact on my schedule, and why that should matter to them.
  • Never plan a critical task or activity to follow a meeting that could go longer than the planned length of time.
  • Always try to be clear about my level of commitment for any responsibility in terms of hours or physical items to be created. Hopefully those parameters will encourage those working with me to not allow deceptive cadences to appear in the project or process.
  • Be more proactive in looking at upcoming activities or tasks that could create their own deceptive cadences. What can I do now to limit the possibility of them being written into the score of my daily or weekly schedule?

The big "aha" for me was that when it comes to music, we are conditioned to not hear a deceptive cadence because there is a natural order followed in most music score. In today's workplace, however, it seems that we are hearing deceptive cadence more frequently... and the chances of us getting back to the normal progression of activity is less likely than ever.

Where is deceptive cadence showing up in your day?