Monday, August 14, 2006

Clues for the Clueless

Last week was a hellish week at work. I’m working with a small team of consultants on a multimedia training project for a large state agency that has spent a lot of money for us to do things that none of us have ever done before. And we have to do it in a ridiculously short period of time. I have a state sponsor who basically wants us to produce animated videos that look like Shrek and Finding Nemo. And I have a hard time telling when my dining room walls have changed from beige to maroon. I may not be the ideal candidate to develop a visually-oriented training course.

So people are tense. I am tense. And when I am tense, and when I have some clues about some of the ways we should go, I tend to force feed those clues to the clueless. Here, have a clue, and eat it quickly because we don’t have time to waste. And it then inevitably follows, as night follows day, that I am reprimanded for not playing well with others. Back off. You’re too aggressive. Check your ego at the door. These are messages I’ve heard most of my adult life. They’re nothing new. They are, in fact, very, very old.

Of course, there is truth in those messages. And when I hear them, I usually react with a mixture of baffled befuddlement, contrition, sorrow, guilt, and an overwhelming feeling of being misunderstood. Look, I don’t want to steamroll you. I want to be your friend. But you’re clueless, and we don’t have time to be clueless. This is honestly how my mind works.

So I’ve been praying about this. My weekend was spent in prayer and frantic writing activity, alternating between being extremely productive and moping around the house and feeling like an asshole. I don’t know how to gently and politely tell people that they’re wrong and I’m right. I don’t even know if it’s possible to do that. But I do know that my communication style frequently doesn’t work. For some reason people tend to get upset if you tell them they’re clueless, even if you couch it in terms of you’re a swell human being, and a child of God, dearly beloved and of infinite value, everybody get together try and love one another right now, and those are cute photos of your kids, but you’re still wrong in this case, Bucko. I just wish I knew how to communicate that in less inflammatory ways. And I wish I knew why my every attempt to douse the flames still seems to result in a 5-alarm conflagration.

I really do. And so I prayed about it this weekend, a lot. Other people prayed for me about it. I’m sick of this. It creates resentment in other people, and it makes me feel like a pariah and a jerk. So if you are so moved, pray that God will change me. I don’t know how to change myself. I tend to get in trouble when I think I have a clue, even when I really do. And for better or worse, here is an area where I don’t have a clue. If you can do anything with that, God, go for it.


Anonymous said...

i tend to have similar problems communicating all the time. I love you brother.

and hope the clueless get clued in real quick too.

Anonymous said...

here's what i do when my personality gets in the way...i let my wife handle it.

actually, when i am in a situation where my personality seems to keep getting in the way, i think back and find some person who excells in those situations...what would they would they say it. i particularly try to find someone who i've actually witnessed excelling in those situations...

for instance, i suck at meeting people...i don't know what to say to start a conversation. once the conversation is going, i'm find... but starting them? i struggle. (hence remaining anonymous here!)

anyway, it's my JOB to meet people. to talk to them and make them feel welcomed etc...i can do it in my job place (because it's my job)...but still can't do it in other situations. and (i think) it costs me.

so, i watch people who are good at it. i listen to their conversations...i remember the people who started conversations with me in odd places and remember what they said...and i remember i didn't think they were dumb or silly or whatever... i actually enjoyed the fact they started a conversation with me.

when was the last time someone corrected you in a way that didn't put you off? what did they say? how did they say it? what response did you have to it?

then, do it that way. it may not feel natural...but most things that are right don't come naturally.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and tell me, Andy. It's just a blog. Oh, I thought you were talking about me. I AM clueless. Hummm... maybe you are. Now I'm clueless and paranoid.

Hope things get better, Andy. I think I know what you are going through. I just spent two weeks working on a bid, just to have the enduser tell us that they didn't like the answers we gave, even though we bid the job exactly as they wished, using their parameters. Approximately 150 linked Excel sheets in four workbooks down the drain. Start over.

Thank the Lord, I don't have to be the one to communicate directly most of the time, because my company wouldn't be in business and I wouldn't have a job. At least this one.

I don't know if this helps, but just try to "big picture" everything. It may only increase your worries overall, but it will put this particular moment back in perspective.

...I am riding in the margins
On a horse that’s going blind
Staying focused on my mission
And attached to my behind....

- John Gorka from his new CD

Anonymous said...

One trick you can try is to ask questions rather than tell the other person why something should or shouldn't be done. Have you considered how this situation would be handled? What about the instances where...? That way, you're involving them in the process of figuring out whether the idea is good or not. If you're the one proposing the idea, frame it again as a question. Why wouldn't this approach solve that problem? It may take you a few sentences longer to get where you need to go, but at least you'll get there without getting into trouble.

Just a thought.