“The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault.” – Henry Kissinger
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with the subjects he would theorize about, I was pretty sure “his” theories were at least 50 years old and long-since superseded.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.”