Enlightened Conflict

not answering questions and deflection

April 21st, 2017

Question Cloud the issue answer business

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obfuscate

This is the word to use when evasion is achieved by clouding the issue.

Creating a smoke-screen.

 

prevaricate, evade, dodge

 

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“When shrouded meanings and grim intentions are nicely polished up and pokerfaced personae are generously palming off their fantasy constructs, caution is the watchword, since rimpling water on the well of truth swiftly obscures our vision and perception.

(“Trompe le pied/wrong foot.”)”

 

Erik Pevernagie

 

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So.

 

There is possibly nothing more aggravating in business than someone not avoid word businessanswering “the” question. To be clear on what I am speaking about … they answer a question … just not the one you asked.

 

I am not going to argue that some questions are not easy to answer.

I won’t even argue that we get asked questions we don’t know the answers to but the situation dictates we make something up <yes … that happens in business>.

 

But abandoning the question completely is … well … complete bullshit.

 

But you know what?

 

I think the main reason it is so aggravating is because it is truly a reflection of intentions.

 

There is even a book called The Anthropology of Intentions by a professor, Alessandro Duranti, who kind of tackles this whole discussion of intentions & words.

He offers us the thought of ‘intentional discourse’ wherein an individual filters words through their beliefs & desires and their plans & goals to guide the discourse <regardless of whether the rest of the people want it guided that way>. In other words, using another phrase he offers us, by engaging in an intentional continuum people ponder their use of words through self-interest motivations <some good & some bad>.

 

By the way … I am fairly sure I mangled his academic masterpiece … but you get the point.

 

Ah.

“You get the point.”

 

I share that again because while we sit there aggravated at someone who completely avoided answering the question asked … we almost always also sit there wanting to invest a little of our own energy trying to assess why they did it. Because, in our aggravated minds, in its most simplistic viewing … avoiding the question is solely about shifting attention – away from something and toward something else.

 

Sure.

It could be something as simple as steering you away from their lack of deflection answer question avoidknowledge and steering you toward something they may actually know.

 

But, in most cases, a full abandonment of a specific question is complete & utter deflection.

 

In the intelligence community they call this effort to shift attention as deflection or misdirection. Magicians do something similar getting people to focus on one thing and away from the trick itself.

Completely avoiding the question is the business version of a distract-the-audience approach. It is this weird moment in which someone pretends to answer the question by actually answering some other question that magically appeared to replace the question really asked.

It’s almost like entering an alternative universe for a while.

 

Sadly. Aggravated or not … the more practiced the deception <the more practiced the business magician is> the more likely you hesitate to step in <and the more you get aggravated as you hesitate> and correspondingly … the more many of these people actually believe deception works.

 

It is maddening.

 

Worse?

If they are good at it … when someone responds to a question by not addressing the points of the question, thereby avoiding the issue itself, it doesn’t create unrelated discussion to the issue … it simply avoids the issue in totality.

 

Well.

..... watching the question being ignored .........

….. watching the question being ignored ………

I am fairly sure we have all sat there in a meeting and watched something like this unfolding right before our eyes.

 

The visceral response, the aggravation, we have to this ‘answer evasion’ situation is most likely found in the revelation it is occurring … watching it unfold before our eyes.

Philosophically, we can see that through some internal conviction to retain something they feel like they should own <their reputation, their title, their perceived intelligence, their whatever> they justify evading the question.

 

Conviction. Yeah. I just used ‘internal conviction.’ This means their intentions reflect they are more important than not only the question itself … but you. You are not even dignified with an answer.

 

It is irksome <at its least worst>.

 

It is loathsome <at its most worst>.

 

Look.

 

I give a partial pass to the asshats you can see who have some answer they want to give everyone, regardless of what question is asked, and blurt it out when given the opportunity. They haven’t deflected the question … they just ignored it as unimportant to what they want to say and have been planning to say no matter what has been said up to that point.

 

It’s the ones you know heard the question … and just ignored it. Or avoided it. Or just didn’t answer it despite the fact they heard every word, every syllable and every intention from the question giver.

 

In other words … they intentionally do not answer the question.

 

<envision a deep sigh here>

 

I want people to face questions head on. And what makes this even more aggravating is that you know these people are quite capable of taking things head on.look over there answer

 

How do I know that?

 

These are the same people who will attack, or ‘aggressively question’, the intentions of the question giver themselves. It is a common tactic for the answer avoiders. The natural instinct is to ‘defend’ … to answer the attack. Fuck that. I want to say … “just answer the fucking question asked.”

 

How else do I know these people are quite capable of taking questions head on?

 

These are the same people who will attack, or ‘aggressively question’, the question itself. This is not a deflection tactic … this is a ‘turn the question back on itself’ tactic. And, once again, your natural instinct is to defend or … well … answer the question you are asked.  Fuck that. I want to say … “just answer the fucking question asked.”

 

And maybe what makes this ‘not answering the question asked’ so maddening is that we, most sane pragmatic business people, tend to sit back <after saying “WTF”> and try and unravel why it happened and what the hell just happened.

Unless you are in an interview scenario <in which you always have an opportunity, one-to-one, to hunker down and hammer out a clear answer> you are most likely in a room with other people and the non-answer has sent at least some of the people careening down a completely different road.

 

That makes it even MORE aggravating.

 

One intentional non answer to a question can completely derail a meeting or a avoid questionsdiscussion.

 

That is intentional discourse. Or how about the other phrase from that academic’s book … engaging in an intentional continuum.

 

Oh.

 

And one last way you know these asshats are intentionally not answering the question is when they cleverly decline to answer the question with the infamous head fake answer … “I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll work on finding the information for you and then get back to you with an answer” <and they have no fucking intention of ever getting back to you>.

 

Yeah.

 

You know … sure as shit … they have no plans to work on it and will never ‘get back to you’ unless you call them on it.

They are intentionally refusing to answer the question assuming the conversation will move on and, in a laundry list of other shit to do, that this one will either never make the list or be so low on the list they can stiff arm you on answering based on “working on things more important.”

 

Its bullshit. You know its bullshit. They know its bullshit.

 

Well.

 

Fuck you.

Fuck you and the non-answering horse you rode in on.

 

In my mind a good well-articulated question demands some accountability. The one given the question is now accountable for the answer. They may try and deflect and they may just answer a completely different question … but a question asked exists … it does not disappear. You cannot get away from it.

 

Let me share a graphic example of why accountability remains whether the question dodger likes it or not.

 

You open your front door in the morning and there is a nice pile of dog poop avoid question bomb stink business problemssquarely in the middle of your front door opening. You either clean it up or you avoid it. The question dodger never acknowledges the pile and steps over it moving on to something else. The shit stays at the front door and over time the smell increases and the flies crowd around.

A good question unanswered is just like that. And a question dodger cannot avoid the smell in the end.

 

All that said.

 

My message to the asshats who completely do not answer the question asked:  You will be accountable to the question and to cleaning up the mess … now … or later <and quit aggravating me by not answering the fucking question>.

 

 

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Author note:

When I reread this, which took me less than a ½ hour to write, I was a little asshole admittingsurprised by how … well … aggravated the tone was.

Lots of ‘fucks’ and ‘asshats’.

I left it as is because as a 50something business guy who has always attempted to take on what needs to be taken on regardless of how painful t may have been <and career wise possibly less than prudent> I get a little angry about how the business world has become incredibly unkind to the risk takers & truth tellers and seems to reward the less-than-competent and ‘political maneuverers’ more often than it should. That’s my excuse for why I let this one stand as it does.

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important to know when something has reached its end

November 11th, 2016

 

period just stop here

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“It is always important to know when something has reached its end.

 

Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”

 

 

Paulo Coelho

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“When you start to suck, stop.”

 

 –

 

Kristen Hersh

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So.

 

This is mostly about business <although, I imagine, some aspects bleed into Life>.

 

stopIn business … we create false endings all the time. And I mean ALL the time.

Milestones, quarterly objectives, standards, etc.

 

We do this not just because people have a tendency to work better aiming at something but also because we suck at knowing when something has naturally reached its end.

 

Now.

 

I have written about stopping, or closing down, when you start sucking and how difficult that is.

 

Back in 2012 I said “sucking is like quicksand.  The harder you work to stop sucking the further you get sucked down into suckedness.”   A fun idea to write about but that is different than recognizing an ‘end’ … that is simply not recognizing you have given all you can and it is all downhill from there.

 

I have written about ‘periods’, the stop punctuation, and the art of knowing when to stop. A fun idea to write about but that is different than recognizing an ‘end’ … that is simply about not recognizing when you should shut up.

 

This post is about knowing … and I mean really knowing when something has reached its end.

Knowing that it is time to close, close up … and move on.

 

Uhm.

 

This is hard. Really hard.

And, speaking for myself and how I think philosophically, I know I make it even harder. I once wrote about running through the end of project … I called it “riding to the buzzer.”

Riding through things you are working on makes it a little more difficult to recognize whether you ran through a milestone or through its natural end.

 

I say that because here is where a natural end truly becomes sneaky … 99% of knowing when to stopthe time it doesn’t appear as some brick wall or solid stop.

Sure.

‘The end’ most likely does have a stop sign around if you pay attention … but more often than not the sign is most likely covered up by some overgrown bushes which have never been trimmed.

 

It seems a little strange because one would think we business people would be better at seeing ends and when to close up on something and move on.

I mean what the hell … business is strewn with milestones, objectives, deadlines and a slew of ‘people created’ ending points. And, yet, most business people suck at the really important ability to know when something has reached its end.

 

We are not particularly good at it with regard to a company <uhm … companies actually do have life spans>.

 

We are not particularly good at it with regard to employee initiatives <once in place we have a nasty habit of thinking it should be an ongoing ‘organizational culture tool’ which enables consistent behavior>.

 

We are not particularly good at it with regard to existing products & services <what happens when there is actually something better to be offered?>.

 

We are not particularly good at it with regard to sales objectives <what happens when our stated audience is … uh oh … sated?>.

 

 

In fact.

 

What we are particularly good at is getting whatever it is that we want done starting over poohinto a “doing” mode and then developing a whole slew of ways to nudge it down the road. I imagine if I stick with that metaphor I could suggest we suck at not seeing any stop signs because we are too focused on nudging and tweaking the engine and replacing shoes so people can keep walking down that road.

 

But ‘being over’?

 

Whew.

 

We hold on way beyond the sell date. Everyone does <me included>. It is natural.

 

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Letting go. Everyone talks about it like it’s the easiest thing. Unfurl your fingers one by one until your hand is open. But my hand has been clenched into a fist for three years now; it’s frozen shut.

All of me is frozen shut. And about to shut down completely.

 

—–

Gayle Forman

 

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It is natural because of the dreaded “what’s next?”

few whats next

Yeah.

 

In order to acknowledge an end … to close up shop and move on … well … you have to know what’s next. And not only that … you kind of have to already have a plan in place or at least a road to bus everyone over to where they can get off and start walking.

 

And maybe that is where we business folk suck the most. It’s not that we don’t know when to stop we just don’t know how to start again.

Start anew.

 

About the only time we are actually good at it is within a ‘forced end.’

 

As in … we have no choice.

 

As I typed that I thought about … well … a different kind of business … the business of having a band and the arrival of the Foo Fighters after the death of Kurt Cobain:

 

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“There were people that really resented me for starting this band. ‘How dare you start another band?’

 

They asked me ‘Why did you decide to carry on and make music that sounds like Nirvana?’ and I said well, wait a minute – like, loud rock guitars, and melodies, and cymbals crashing and big-ass drums?

‘Cause that’s what I do.

What do you want me to do? Make a reggae record?”

 

Dave Grohl

<Foo Fighters>

 

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When viewing the music industry and bands and individual artist you can find a lot of examples of forced ‘doing what needs to be done and moving on’ as well as ‘well, it is time to move on’ type endings <we business people should think about that a little>.

 

When forced … talented business people do what needs to be done.

Unfortunately … most of business doesn’t really create this kind of ‘forced decision.’ Most times we simply try and squeeze whatever we can out of whatever we have. And we squeeze until there is nothing left <way beyond the ‘end’>.

 

Ok. What to do.

 

This is solvable.

And relatively easy in the scheme of things.

 

It is a version of ‘planned obsoletion’ <which I have always been a HUGE fan of in business> … but your senior management team needs to sit down on occasion and not do ‘blue sky thinking’ but hunker down like a military plan of action and say “we won this ground and what ground do we attack next.” This includes an attitude which says we will aggressively pursue that plan <so it is not just a plan but a plan of action>.

 

Far too often we look at the ground we have won and seek to consolidate it … and … well … consolidate it.

Squeeze and squeeze and squeeze.

And, on occasion, we fool ourselves into thinking we are truly exploring ‘what’s next’ by saying ‘let’s take that hill just outside of the area we currently occupy.’

And we make it sound like some massive effort that will refresh us. Instead we are investing significant resources on a less than significant objective. I am certainly not suggesting that incrementalism does not have a role in business strategy but rather we far too often use incrementalism to ignore the stop sign we just walked past.

 

I am not a big SWOT analysis guy nor am I a big ‘white space’ business guy. I am more a pragmatic “this is who I am and this is what I am good at and I don’t care who I may compete against or what they may be currently doing I believe ‘these x’ people will like what I have to offer and I am going to go get it” business guy.

 

In a growth situation <which, by the way, I tend to believe any healthy organization should always be in> you should be seeking to grow. To expand. To think of ‘saturation’ as a swear word. To always be thinking about how to shake-the-etch-a-sketch so that stagnancy <in sales, attitude, behavior, thinking> never sets in.

 

To be clear.

Sure.

 

I believe you should always talk with your innovations/new product pipeline people because they may have some new widget up their sleeve you can go and expand your business with but, more often, you will be successful by looking at what you have now and finding new ground to attack with that. I have found starting over i amyour new widgets just have a tendency to cement the ground you have already won more often than not.

 

Keeping with the military analogy I often tell businesses to think of their business modeling with an ‘occupation force’ team with a separate “attacking army” team mindset. Especially if you are in a growing category you almost have to have a “win this ground and move on” attitude or you can get stuck in a grind-it-out business war.

 

Regardless.

 

It is important to know when something has reached an end. If only because it permits us business folk to close it off, leave it behind, not invest more energy squeezing something that has really ended <even though we do not want to admit it> and move on to the next chapter of our business life.

 

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“Do not fear to lose what needs to be lost.”

Sue Monk Kidd

Enlightened Conflict