Archive | July, 2011

Wrong tool for the job

13 Jul

After 20+ years of marriage what is it that makes a woman think that her man is suddenly capable of something that he has NEVER shown any talent for?

I’m talking about the art of just listening and approving, without adding anything.

My life is built around gathering evidence, fitting bits together into a logical whole and passing the information on to others. Adding value to the discussion, not just repeating what has already been stated. Learning that skill is one of the main points of school. Applying that skill is how many of us make a living. Without that basic skill none of my employers would have had any interest in hiring me in the first place. I have always been good at it and I enjoy applying it and seeing it applied masterfully by others.

Others apparently agree with me. Ever see a cop show on TV? How about a medical show? Law? Star Trek? MacGyver? All of them are about figuring things out and using the information to make a situation better. The problem is that I don’t know when to quit. Solving things is an app that never gets turned off. A background process. My screen-saver.

Even when I completely approve of something my instinct is to discuss why I think it is good and to brainstorm about what some good next steps might be. To my way of thinking this is in no way criticism. If I didn’t think it was great or showed promise it would be much easier for me to remain quiet, damning the situation in question with faint praise.

It is like showing a picture of a chessboard in mid-game to an experienced chess player and being hurt and upset with them for talking about what the best next moves might be rather than talking about what a good job the photographer did.

You don’t call a plumber to fix your wiring. You don’t call an electrician when you have a leaky pipe. If you are going to tell me something and you don’t want me to have or express an opinion about it, TELL ME SO UP FRONT. I’m a straightforward person, with a limited capacity to understand the underlying emotion and subtext to a situation, especially when the key information is communicated via e-mail or text message.  I am likely to take what you tell me and think out the next few moves in advance. This should not be a surprise by now.

Don’t get mad at the dog for not purring. Don’t get mad at the cat for not catching the frisbee. Don’t get mad at the bald white guy for acting in character. If you don’t want him to have an opinion and express it, don’t give him the information in the first place.