Better Decision Making Starts with Better Reactions to Requests
When I was growing up, one of the next-door-neighbor moms was, well, sort of rough. Whenever the kids would ask if they could do something (go outside and play, go to the pool, etc.), she would respond with a series of rapid-fire questions: “Did you clean your room yet? Did you pick up the family room like I asked you to? Are there dishes in the sink? Are your dirty shoes still on the back porch?”
A saner mom (like my own, or the one on the other side of us) would say, “Well, if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do then of course you can go.” The difference is profound. The rapid-fire question-asking was intended to induce anxiety over asking for something. The calmer statement of fact was intended to get something done.
Later on in business I encountered bosses who did this sort of thing. When you approached them to ask if you could do something (perhaps something special for a customer, or spend some money on an advertising opportunity, or buy a new tool), they would respond with a series of questions designed to instill anxiety: “Do you know how much you’ve spent already this month? Do you know what it would cost to do that for every customer? Did you shop all the competitors to make sure you have the best price? How are you doing on your performance metrics?” At those times I would feel the anxiety-bile rising in my throat, just as it did every time the neighbor mom did it to my childhood friends.
One day when I was at the zoo with my daughter I heard a mom using the rapid-fire question strategy on her son who had just asked for a hot dog. We happened to be in the Ape House, enjoying the much-anticipated poo throwing ritual. I put the two together forever and always.
It occurred to me that people do this type of poo-throwing when they are being asked for something. Many people don’t like the feeling of being asked for something – it feels like pressure or an imposition. They are even more inclined to throw poo when asked to make a decision that they don’t feel prepared to make; the send-them-scrambling-poo-throw delays the time when they must make a commitment.
So here’s your challenge for today. Examine how you respond to being asked for things, or asked to make decisions. If your reaction apes anything like the situations I have described here (yeah, OK, pardon the pun), take a look at why you do it, and how you might respond more effectively.
Note to you “let me think about it’s” (like me): that can be a delaying tactic too! Not quite as messy, but ultimately just as frustrating for those who need you to make a decision.