Pundit tiresomeness syndrome

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Do all writers and opinionators suffer from this?

I’m talking about what I probably shouldn’t call Pundits’ Tiresomeness Syndrome (PTS). I shouldn’t call it that because the compulsion to coin the phrase is a symptom of the underlying malady.

PTS is a complement to the need discussed in this space a few weeks back, where the need to matter leads to an inability to make polite conversation. I’m pretty sure I suffer from this because I hear myself, from time to time, punctuating a conversation with the deadly phrase, “I’ve written about this from time to time and …”

The implication, try as I can to avoid it, is that my views on the subject are more listen-worthy than those of anyone else I happen to be conversing with at the time.

It’s more or less on a par with the late, lamented Dr. Science, who explained why his explanations were worth paying attention to: “I have a masters degree … in SCIENCE!”

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I knew a guy, once upon a time, who suffered from a severe case of PTS. No matter what the subject, and no matter how technically nuanced the subject, his go-to conversational gambit was “I have a theory about that. To the extent I was conversant with the subjects he would theorize about, I was pretty sure “his” theories were at least 50 years old and long-since superseded.

Did I say he suffered from PTS? To be precise, everyone around him suffered from it.

Then there was the CIO I knew who informed his leadership team that from that point forward his management team members should all think of him as just another member of the team. That was just before he said, “For example, here’s a situation we have to deal with, and here’s what I think we should do about it.” Hearing his solution took the rest of the management team meeting. It was PTS at its finest.

Among PTS’s symptoms, perhaps the worst is that it’s far from incurable. Quite the opposite, most of us sufferers know the cure.

It’s to ask a question. A question, and to be clear I’m talking about open-ended questions, not debate-style accusatorial ones, demonstrates interest in other people’s knowledge and perspectives.

This well-known cure … perhaps “treatment” would be a better term … has the fringe benefit of exposing the PTS sufferer to new and potentially interesting ideas.

It also takes advantage of a strange, paradoxical quirk of human perception: If I ask someone a question about themself, their post-question perception of me is that I’m a more interesting person than I was before I asked the question.

What’s most difficult in all this lies in another, socially dismal symptom: We find that understanding what someone else is trying to explain to us takes, as the years to by, an increasing expenditure of energy.

Explaining my views, that is, takes less effort than understanding yours.

Bob’s last word: In case the managerial point isn’t clear, it’s that as a leader and manager, you’re far better off asking your staff what they think about a subject … any subject … than you are telling them what you think about it.

You can certainly share your views, but you’ll be far more persuasive if you wait to share them until you’ve done enough listening first.

Bob’s sales pitch: If you’ve been paying attention you’ll understand there’s little likelihood that I’ll speak my last word on any subject any time soon.

And just to make sure we’re still friends, I really do value the anecdotes, knowledge, and opinions KJR’s subscribers share with me, whether through email or the Comments.

PTS or no PTS, I want to hear from you. Now showing in CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide:5 Ways CIOs will disappoint their CEOs in 2003.”

Comments (9)

  • There aren’t many politicians, past or present, who serve as an ideal for anything (except dysdunctionism), but (US) President Harry Truman was a good example of the point I believe you’re making here. At his cabinet meetings, before a major decision he would have everyone give input before he made the final decision. He made it clear that he expected everyone to support it, but he honestly took everyone’s viewpoint into consideration first. I’ve long tried to model my leadership style after his (with modifications for the situation at hand, of course).

  • Another way to find out if you have PTS is to ask your wife!

  • Bob isn’t PTS tied into the desire to hear one’s voice since listening is so threatening? How many leaders speak first and listen second? In fairness to leaders, part of leading is vision and we can get carried away.

    We need to hand out “good point” cards that people exchange during discussions. I personally learn so much from differing opinions.

    The other problem is see if too many people throwing their finger up in the air (not that finger) to see which way the wind is blowing on decisions and following their leader. Basic dialog on tough issues has turned into keeping the boss happy.

    I have zero confidence this problem will go away – our tribes are growing.

    All is not lost, Musk kicked the Twitter client I use off his platform. My life is calmer.

  • “… than you are telling them what you think about it.”

    The further up the flow chart, the louder a “thought” resonates.

    The result is a careless word or an impromptu thought from an executive becomes a command to the line-level worker.

    The worst part the executive might be completely unaware of this.

  • I remember a boss/Director who went around the room and asked each of the 10 managers for their thoughts on a certain topic. As soon as the 10th person finished speaking he said ‘thank you. Here’s what we are going to do…’ That was just one of several reasons that Director and management team didn’t survive much longer.

    I TOTALLY relate to the energy consumed by listening to others. Not only is it a case of getting older, but getting so much more of my information via reading. Most speakers aren’t very good with clear, concise extemporaneous speaking. My tolerance for slow, rambling, ponderous explanation has gone way down. One reason I enjoy social media esp LinkedIn. – I don’t have to listen to people talk.

    • Hadn’t thought of this, but what you say resonates with why I don’t generally listen to podcasts. The information rate is just so much slower than it is when I read.

  • Bob — your insights are right on the money … loved: “5 Ways CIOs will disappoint their CEOs in 2023.” Hope everyone reads it …

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