Words of the Week – play it by ear

Play it by Ear (image: gari.baldi)

To play it by ear means to approach a situation without a plan, and let events unfold naturally. Playing it by ear doesn’t happen often in the US, especially in business, because a lot of Americans plan everything they do from careers to meetings to social events. However, students tend to manage time in a more fluid manner. You might hear someone say, “There are three events I’m interested in attending tomorrow at lunch: the H1-B visa guidelines, the Marketing Club brown bag, and the Adventure Club introduction to white water rafting. I’m not sure which one is going to be the most valuable; so I’m just going to play it by ear.”

The term originates from the world of music. When a person plays a musical piece without referencing the sheet music, it’s called playing by ear.

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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