Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just Saying

My daughter Eila texts me after reading yesterday's post, Silly Arguments, pointing out several issues she has with it.

I text her addressing a couple of them.

She texts me.

I start to text her and then just press dial.

"Hi dad."

"Hi Eila."

We talk. Eila explains. I listen. I explain. Eila listens.

Paraphrasing Eila's perspective, it all comes down to two or three things. First, people often don't say what they mean, get used to it. Second, what makes me think I have to point out every time someone is inconsistent in word and deed? Third, why do I have to be so negative?

Again, that's paraphrasing what I picked up on. For all you know, Eila said something completely different. However, forgetting for a moment whether or not Eila actually said those words, I've been thinking about them as though she had and what followed in our discussion.

The first thing (that people often don't say what they mean or are thinking) was something that we both agreed upon. It was the "get used to it part" that I wasn't yet ready to do. It's not that I can't see the benefits of that approach. It would certainly lead to less, um, excitement.

As Eila and I talk, it occurs to me that I wouldn't want someone to do that with me, i.e., get used to it. I would want them to point out when my words and actions didn't gibe.

I mention this to Eila and then think aloud of people whom no one ever takes seriously because they've got used to them. Whenever he talks about his newest plan, they just roll their eyes, never saying anything (at least not to him).

Eila agrees (I think) that at least for her, she'd prefer someone just tell her.

It might be an artifact of my early childhood being strongly influenced by Southern Baptist doctrine, but there's this teaching of Jesus that I've had a hard time shaking. It's referred to as "The Golden Rule". It says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Anyway, since I'd prefer someone point out my inconsistency...

OK, but what about the negativity part, i.e., judging. Eila points out, "Just because someone is watching TV every night instead of doing this or that, doesn't mean that they don't really want to do or don't care about it."

I agree.

She points out that I don't agree.

I say, "I agree that it doesn't mean they don't care. It just means that their actions are inconsistent with achieving what they say they really want. Instead, their actions are consistent with someone who really wants to watch TV every night."

Eila says, "But you don't know if they're just lazy or they don't care or they're overwhelmed or they feel that they just can't do it."

I say, "I agree. All I know is that their actions are inconsistent with their stated intentions. It's not a good or bad thing, just an inconsistency."

Eila says, "OK, but why do you feel like you have to point it out?"

I say, "I don't. It's just that I would want someone to do it with me."

As I think about it, there's more to it than the Golden Rule. When you really want to accomplish something and your actions are inconsistent with doing so, then seeing the inconsistency for what it is (an inconsistency) can be the beginning of overcoming it.

For example, over the years I've known dozens of people who wanted to leave corporate life and start their own businesses, none of whom ever did. It always came down to one thing: being overwhelmed. It turns out that the constraints and limits imposed by their employers also served to provide structure that offered a sense of safe haven. In the absence of that structure, they would quickly become overwhelmed.

However, you never hear them say that, at least not right away. Instead, you see them doing things inconsistent with "really, really" wanting to start a business. The inconsistency is all the evidence you have. So, you start with the evidence you have and explore trying to get to "why?"

If someone has no self-judgment, it's a quick trip. However, if they judge themselves for not doing all they can to start their business, then pointing out an inconsistency is like leveling an accusation. They get defensive. They feel hurt.

Rather than quickly arriving at, "Look, I'm overwhelmed and don't know where to start", you go round and round. The funny thing is that getting overwhelmed is par for the course. Of course you get overwhelmed, that's OK. You don't have to fix being overwhelmed, just keep working and it will take care of itself.

So, from my perspective, there's nothing wrong, nothing to judge. However, talking with Eila, I can see how someone might take it that way. I guess that's up to them. Nonetheless, I think I'll work on doing a better job explaining why I point out inconsistencies.

Eila says, "But what if someone doesn't want to hear about it?"

I say, "Then they can just tell me. There are things that you've told me that you don't want to hear about, right?"


"And have I brought them up?"


I learned a lot talking with Eila.  She's one of those amazing people who can strongly defend an opinion while being completely open to others. She's way better at it than I am.

Do you notice when people are inconsistent? What do you do?

Happy Saturday,

1 comment:

  1. This topic is beyond fascinating, Tef; thanks for bringing it up. A couple of quick responses:

    1. There are often times when I notice people being inconsistent (between what they say and what they do). That certainly sticks out for me, but I don't always point them out, 'cause I know there are only certain windows of opportunity when people are open to listening, let alone making any changes. I might mentally catalog them for future discussion, but I realize clearly that of all the things I want to do with others (tell, ask, discuss, request change, etc), I'm only going to get around to doing a small fraction, so my main mental background calculation is "where does this rank?"

    2. The Golden rule: I think it's a significant step up from "I'll do whatever the heck I like", but I find it can lead us to assume that others like what we like, or work the way we work. I've come across a third axiom, sometimes known as the Platinum Rule, which says "do unto others as they would have done unto them". I kinda like that the best, because it encourages me the most to put myself in the other person's shoes.


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