Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Regarding Just Saying, Sree posted the following...
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.
I've been thinking a lot about both of Sree's points since I saw them yesterday, because not only are they fascinating to me, but they're also quite pertinent to what I'm working through for myself.

A Matter of Degree
The first thought was one of clarification; I don't point out every inconsistency that I see (who'd have the time). There would seem to be three criteria that combine to define a point-out-able inconsistency.

  1. The degree of inconsistency
  2. The significance that the inconsistent person has ascribed to the factors of inconsistency
  3. How much the inconsistency affects me

Although you might think that the first one would carry a lot of weight, it probably has the least influence on me. People can be crazy inconsistent and I won't say a thing. However, if someone's crazy inconsistent and that inconsistency is prohibiting them from getting what they say they want, then I'll point it out. Similarly, if that inconsistency is getting in the way of me getting what I want, I'll point it out.

So it's never inconsistency for its own sake (unless we're just goofing around); instead, it's the impact of the inconsistency that matters to me. The greater the impact, the more likely it is that I'll say something.

Ready or Not
I like the idea of mentally cataloging something you want to say and then bringing it up when a person is ready to hear it. I like it at least in theory; I've just never seen it actually work.

There are several practical problems with this approach, foremost being that the something never gets brought up. We forget about it. We convince ourselves that it wasn't all that important anyway. We decide that the person simply isn't open to hearing about it or wouldn't change. We mull and bury it. We talk to someone other than the subject of our not-saying. All these are effective techniques commonly used to avoid getting around to it.

The second problem is one of distortion. The further away we get from any event, the more distorted it becomes. The remembered event changes for both ourselves and the people with whom we're waiting to speak. The discussion of something obvious in the moment shifts to whether or not it even occurred. We never get to the effect of the inconsistency because we get caught up in proving its existence.

The third problem is one of waxy build up. This is not an issue for inconsistencies that have no effect. However, if an inconsistency has significant effect and you don't discuss it, well, it has to go somewhere. Some people bury it. Some people gossip. Some people just get angry. Before you know it, you've got all sorts of issues with someone that go back to your never having talked about the source of those issues. Suddenly the timing is no longer determined by the availability of the listener, but instead but the inability to the speaker to hold it in any longer.

The fourth problem is knowing when a good time is. It's quite easy to decide when not-a-good-time is; we do that all the time. However, I'd wager that 90% of the get-around-to-it discussions never find a good time.

So, not having solved these myself, I opt for just saying what I'm thinking and being done with it.

Golden, Platinum or Lead
Sree, I love the Platinum Rule concept. I think it's always useful to put oneself in the shoes of another. I just have some practical concerns about how to implement it. The first is the question of whose shoes to wear: the current person or the future person?

The current person may be defensive and closed; she may want nothing to do with your observations and insights. However, the same person with the perspective of your observations and insights (whether gained through personal experience or from someone pointing them out) may be grateful for them. Which person do you consider when applying the rule?

Certainly with our kids, we teach things for which they see no reason in the moment. Sometimes they get downright rebellious. However, many of those unwanted teachings become a godsend at some later date. Sure, it's easy for this to get out of hand. You see it all the time when a parent wants his child to be this and the child wants to be that.  However, there are times when understanding the reason for learning something only can occur after you've learned it.  Unto which other are do you do.

The crazy part is that those who've benefited from experience often know better what someone would want than the someone. It only gets acknowledged after the fact.

Even then, it's all a guessing game. You never "know" what someone else would have, but you can become a good guesser. I imagine that's why I stick with the topics that the other person has defined as important or the ones that affect me. I avoid assuming that something is important to someone or good for someone just because it would be good for me.

Of course, you can always just ask, "Hey, I just had an insight and I'd like to share it with you if you want?"

Still, the answer would be from the current person. Hmm... I guess that, for me, the Platinum Rule is an ideal, but difficult to effect.

What about you guys?

  • Do you say what's on your mind in the moment or do you wait for the right time? 
  • How do you decide what to say and what to delay? 
  • What's your hit rate on getting around to that thing you meant to say?
  • What's your code of conduct for interaction? Is it golden, platinum or something else?
  • How do you decide what someone else would want for themselves?
  • Which them do you consider, current, past or future?

Happy Tuesday,


  1. Me piping up again ... my hit rate for getting around to the thing I meant to say is actually not bad; probably 60-70%, and closer to 80-90% for the more important items. And that's because I tried doing it in the moment, and found that the reception was way better when done at a separate time. Plus there's a different kind of waxy buildup in the moment - maybe like a perfectly good piece of food getting burnt in the heat of the moment.

    As for code of conduct for interaction, I see it's not so straightforward. It is indeed basically a guessing game, and going by what somebody has stated as important is as good a guide as any.

  2. Sree, I must say that your hit rate far exceeds mine. The likelihood of me getting around to it after the fact closely resembles the letter "O".

    For me, it's not so much a matter of import as one of opportunity. I spend so much time with so many different people, that, outside of Iris, I have no one with whom I have daily interactions. Still, if something were really important, I could make a note of it or schedule time.

    I guess the problem for me is the flip-side of the burned food; I don't want the fire to go out completely. I've gotta look into that.

    In the mean time, I've been trying something since we first launched into this topic. I don't start with what's on my mind, but instead start with the fact of something being on my mind and an invitation to discuss it. It may not be the perfect solution and I'm sure I can get better at delivery, but it seems way better than just launching into something.


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