Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Indirection

One of the things that young students have in common with most of the people we encounter at work is a rock solid belief in the power of a clear, direct statement. Just tell people what to do and watch them get to work.

Hmmm.

Why is it the people with the strongest belief in direct statements who are the least likely to take a direct suggestion? Could it be that the same people who believe in being clear (by which they mean confrontational) are likely to be confrontational when dealing with someone else's ideas or priorities? Could it be that "direct" is often a synonym for "my way or the highway?"

Indirection sounds either ineffective or sneaky. It sounds like talking around the problem. It sounds like 'paralysis by analysis.'

Or does it?

Is indirection actually a way to build agreements, cautiously and solidly? Is indirection the mark of someone who knows his/her own way so clearly that he/she can stay the course even while building slowly? Sometimes we ask questions so we will know. Sometimes we ask so that someone else will know.

Useful indirection requires patience, imagination, and empathy. Fortunately, since indirection works by small steps, only a small amount of each is required at any given moment.

Today, you will be tempted to make a resoundingly clear statement of what you want. Stop. Take a breath. Start with the smallest piece of the puzzle and build - not by indirection, but by patience, imagination and empathy.

No comments: