Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Being Quick Has Its Drawbacks

From a fairly young age, I was told that I had two key strengths for someone in my career. One is the ability to see further into the future than most people and, with it, the ability to make applications with what appeared to be foresight. Second is the ability to very rapidly detect “personal agendas” when individuals or groups interact.

I’ve always taken those comments at face value, but over a career and hearing them repeated, I’ve come to accept there may be something to these comments. Like everyone else, I’ve never been anyone but me, so I couldn’t really see these things from the inside.

But for every strength, there are drawbacks. I’ve had to learn that, while I could vision further, that made it even harder to bring people along to share a point of view. It also makes me very vulnerable to people who only think in concrete or literal terms and focus primarily on checking things off the list rather than calibrating to the future.

At first I would see the “rolled eyes,” or worse, people would just ignore what I said, rather than ask questions. I’ve tried a lot of things to deal with this over the years, but by natural selection, I’ve come to work with people who either trusted what I was saying or asked good questions.

More problematic has been the ability to detect “agendas.” Because I detect them very early, I also react rapidly and sometimes too fast to be strategic. The personal or group agendas and dynamics are so clear to me I can’t fathom that others don’t see them. I’m also surprised that they see me as defensive when I respond… only to later marvel that I had been right on.

Of course, being able to detect people’s agendas means that I’m not usually included in what we call the “good ole boy” club. However, that has never bothered me a whit.

These two gifts also mean that I can get caught not reading or listening more carefully. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reacted, only to change my mind considerably once I studied an exchange in more detail.

I don’t regret having these abilities. I am puzzled, though, that, after so many years, my ability to adapt to their drawbacks is so agonizingly slow.

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