Friday, April 22, 2011

Asking for an Answer

I was in a meeting the other day, and asked one of the participants for a specific bit of information, expecting a number. Instead, I sort of got a history of counting that number.

Why did I need that history? Turns out I didn't. But I don't think I could convince the other person of that, since passing along that history is important to him/her, and discussing it, too.

There are times when the person's need to discuss whatever history really is important, rather than the answer to my question, but sometimes I really do want the answer for real, and it feels like the history is a way to distract from the real answer.


  1. I have a college who answers every question with a story, the last line being the answer I (or the dept. if it's a meeting) asked for. The stories are often irrelevant and sometimes derail meetings. For hir, I think part of it insecurity, and ze values anecdotal evidence when ze is asking questions. Maybe this person values history? But this annoys the hell out me. We can talk story when the meeting is over.

  2. Indeed, I've been at several places where I will get a 30-year history lesson in response to any question. Or even to statements like, "Maybe we should do x" and then I get, "Well, back in 1972, we . . ." Like you said, sometimes it's useful, but sometimes I feel like it's a defense mechanism, either to avoid the question--or more likely, to avoid change.