Friday, May 1, 2009

Advanced Apprehension 5/01/09

A wise man's question contains half the answer.

Ahad Ha'am
(Thank you Paula)
May Day! May Day!
When I try to read your blogs I get a couple looked at and then my computer seizes and won't let up until I close out and reboot. I'm not ignoring you.
I guess some of yesterday's questions contain at least part of the answers. Does that make me a wise man? I don't know. Some people seem to think so. But, at least, it teaches a valuable lesson: Don't underestimate the question.

I worked with a man for a few years who used to say "There are no stupid questions." I think I managed to come up with a couple during the time we worked together, But any question, no matter how simple, deserves an intelligent answer. And if we underestimate the question we are also underestimating the questioner.

To overestimate someone, to consider them capable of more than they can do, is bad. They may rise to your level of expectations, which is good. But they may not. It is tremblingly unwise to put yourself in the hands of someone who isn't capable of taking care of the things you think they are, or trusting someone you assume is trustworthy but who isn't, That's a fault I have committed many times. You just end up hurting yourself.

But to underestimate someone is insulting. It may deprive him of the right and opportunity to do what he can do, or force him to wade through scorn, ridicule or suspicion to do his thing. We've all seen examples of that. I know it has happened to me. "The book can't be any good because the cover isn't attractive."

There was a runner on my track team in school who always surprised the opposing team. He began slowly and stumblingly. He was soon passed by the other runners who gave him no heed, while he shuffled along like a wounded giraffe. But three quarters of the way through the race whether a mile or two miles or whatever, he would suddenly burst into speed, passing the runners who had passed him and if he didn't win the race he came in among the first three. "Funny, he didn't look like a racer." When anyone asked him how it always happened, he would say "I don't know."

Years ago I saw a production of "The Taming Of The Shrew" by Shakespeare. The actor playing Petruchio portrayed a big, strong, virile character, a definite master of the situation, a mountain of a man, someone to be reckoned with. It was an excellent performance and just right for the play. Obviously the director had looked past the cover and opened the book, because a few years later I worked with that same actor and he turned out to be a short, thin, wiry, gay fellow. "Nah. Look at him. He couldn't possibly play Petruchio. Forget it."

A lot of people are wiser than they think they are. One of my favorite techniques to use when someone asks me a question is to say "I'm not sure, What do you think?" They generally come up with the answer themselves if they are asked to think about it.

Vagabond Journeys
Save some for me.


Big Mark 243 said...

I like to think that I can use people's judgement to my advantage. As for how I 'judge' people ... I wait until they prove me wrong for thinking highly of them.

This way, I am not surprised by any outcome!!

Anonymous said...

Hi DB, What about those people that say "May I ask you a question?" To which I always answer "you just did." Wouldn't that be a stupid question?

Anne said...

Ah ha! This is proof that my own Mother underestimated me. I asked her if her new lawn mower was a riding mower. (After all the woman was 76 yrs old at the time of the question;79 now) She actually asked if I was stupid.....obviously I was! My Mother walks her mower in blue jeans and panty hose, STILL! I think I take after my Dad! Anne

Beth said...

"To overestimate someone, to consider them capable of more than they can do, is bad."

Hmm, makes me think of some folks who have recently held political office...!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Answering a question with a question, if done tactfully, can be a most powerful deflection tool.