Monday, June 12, 2006

A stitch in time is a penny earned.

The scattershot nature of the wisdom that burbles forth from the self-help movement often reminds me of the incongruity between many of those proverbs we learn early in life. Like, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” vs. “Haste makes waste.” Or, “Two heads are better than one” vs. “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Or, "Waste not, want not" vs. "You can't take it with you." (OK, that last one isn't really a proverb, but it's certainly a culturally ingrained concept. And personally, I've never known anyone who took it with him.) Now, I’m a guy who pretty much reads everything in the newspaper, time permitting--every last line in every last section, right down to the obits and where the funerals are being held (it’s a sickness, I know...). In yesterday's employment section of my local paper, The Morning Call, I found this tidbit of advice for job seekers:

"A common mistake people make during an interview is not simply answering the question asked." The Call then goes on to quote Dr. Paul Green, author of Get Hired! Winning Strategies to Ace the Interview, as follows: "When you don’t really know the answer, take your time. Don't make up an answer--ask for time to think and do the best you can."

As it happens, yesterday afternoon while driving I caught part of a radio show on career advice, and one of the panel members (sorry, I didn't catch the name) invoked famed negotiator Herb Cohen and his concept of bridging as it relates to the job interview: i.e., you deftly "bridge" from the difficult question your interrogator just asked you to the point you want to make--a tactic that you'll see on display, among other places, in just about every political debate and, especially, presidential press conference:

"Mr. President, given your early predictions of a decisive military campaign in Iraq, would you concede that the number of troop deaths has exceeded your own initial expectations to an alarming degree?"

"Well, Wolf, of course, we mourn every life that's lost...but defending liberty is going to have its costs, and as you know, we have a long-standing tradition of spreading democracy throughout the world. And as the last of the great superpowers, the United States of America is morally obliged to think not just of its own needs and comfort, but to..."

(On Crossfire once, when someone confronted conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer about the missing weapons of mass destruction, Krauthammer replied, more or less, "Look, the bottom line is, we found Saddam Hussein, who was himself a weapon of mass destruction when you consider the rape rooms, his demonstrated willingness to use nerve gas on his own people, his sponsorship of terrorism...", etc. In strict bridging terms, folks, that's about as good as it gets.)

Anyway, as the guest on yesterday's radio show pointed out, using this tactic prevents you from "having to stall for time in cases where you don’t have a good answer, which makes you look dumb."

Hmmmm. So one "expert" wants you to "take your time and do the best you can." The other "expert" implies that doing that "makes you look dumb." Which is it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I never thought of it that way but you're right about the proverbs and if you think about it even Aesops fables. INdividually they make sense but taken as a whole they're all over the map and even contradictory. Nice job here.--Sam