“Criticism is always easier than constructive solutions.”
– Jaron Lanier
You’ve been there. Stuck in a conversation that’s going nowhere. Not because it’s not interesting or anything like that. It’s just that you can’t reconcile with the other person’s point of view.
What the hell do you do?
A while back I was listening to a talk on how to make the most out of interactions at a conference. There was a point where the presenter gave some tips on how to get out of conversations that you felt weren’t going well.
Thanks, man! Now everyone at the conference knows that you’re trying to pull a fast one on them without hurting their feelings.
I was confronted with this situation yet again. After talking for a while about science our conversation just became a back and forth with me explaining that there might be an alternative way of looking at it and him just restating the problem.
Instead of excusing myself politely I said that I felt the conversation wasn’t constructive nor leading anywhere and that I’d just end it there. His reply, which I won’t repeat here, said so much.
Basically, his views were that conversations by their nature aren’t constructive but merely an exercise in verbal jousting.
I just smiled and walked away.
This is the kind of behavior and mentality I just can’t deal with. Note that while the subheader says “The One Type Of Person I Just Don’t Even” it’s not the people I find objectionable but their actions.
We could’ve spent the better part of an hour going back and forth if I’d not noticed that, despite how intelligent he was, the issue was that we approached the conversation in two very different ways.
I believe that we must look at the problems, and so did he, but whereas I wanted to find a possible solution he simply wanted to show his verbal prowess.
How can anyone win in a game where there are only losers?
Look, finding and focusing on problems is a great skill to have. In fact, we need these people but we need to make sure that we’re on the same page. They go hunt for the problems, we go find the solutions.
If we’re going to spend disproportionate amounts of time and effort to change their attitude, we’ve got to make sure that they at least want to go looking for solutions. If that’s not a habit they wish to cultivate, recognize that and move on.
The time I spent with other people discussing the same issue later on was way more fruitful than any time I could’ve spent on trying to convince someone with intentions so vastly different from mine.
How do you manage these types of situations?
Let me know in the comments and hit me up on Twitter.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!