Please tell me when I’m being an idiot

This morning I was taught a lesson by David Christiansen. It was during a conversation on Bacon, Descarte, Waterfall, and Agile (oh yea, typical Saturday morning conversation... I know). Dave said, "This is the first time I've ever been pissed at you." Or something like that. I care deeply for Dave, so I got a little taken aback.

After Dave made that statement, that part of our conversation ended per Dave's better judgment. We went on to talk about other things. As the conversation shifted, I thought about my actions leading up to that point:

  • I spoke over Dave. In an effort to get myself heard, I put Dave's ideas below mine and didn't view him or his ideas as important.

  • I didn't listen to Dave. Often a corollary to item one, I didn't truly give him my attention, even when I wasn't trying to talk over him. I was focused on what I was going to say, not what he was saying.

  • I didn't respect that he might know something that I don't know. As Dave told me his point of view, I made comments like, "I already know that." Or, "I know what you're saying you don't need to explain it." These comments didn't respect Dave's intellect (which I do respect) and they over-exaggerate my own.

After a while the conversation lagged and I tried to bring the topic up again. Against his better judgment, Dave agreed and we tried again. This time I listened. I actively took notes on my thoughts so I could forget about them and focus on his. I covered my mouth. I gave him the time he needed and deserved to tell his story.

Then we discussed. We went back and forth giving and taking points. He listened and I listened. I feel like this part of the conversation went much better. In the end, I think I agreed with almost everything he was saying, and I don't think he thought I was a complete idiot.

So why blog this? Because I know I do this more then I would like to. I want the world to know how to handle me in this situation. Dave did the best thing he could have, and I wish he would have done it sooner - before he got angry.

The process is simple:

  1. Understand that I'm an idiot.

  2. Forgive me for being an idiot.

  3. Tell me what I'm doing, how it's making you feel, and give me a chance to stop being an idiot.

Dave gave me that chance the second time around. He forgave me and told me. I think I made an effective correction.

I want my conversations to be as rewarding as possible - for both parties. I sometimes have a hard time dealing with my shortcomings around respecting the other person when I'm in a passionate discussion (and I get passionate a lot). Please feel empowered to tell me when I'm being an idiot and you feel I'm not respecting you.


Previous (very kind) Comments



>>>>>How to tell someone...

Dave has posted on how to tell someone you are angry.



Enough already!


Thank you all very much.


>>>>>Gee, thanks...

I confess, I was mad at Mike Kelly once. I don't remember the details... maybe he spoke over me, maybe he didn't listen, and maybe he didn't respect that I might know something he didn't.

More likely it was because in the heat of the discussion, I felt like an idiot -- not because he was being a jerk, but because my wonderful, comfortable argument had some major holes I had not seen. Not a good feeling when you want to be taken seriously.

But as the discussion went on and my argument became more and more porous and desperate (basically disintegrating into a Devil's Advocate position), Mike did not take the easy opportunity to strike a fatal blow, he became *more* reasonable, helping me save enough dignity to dissolve my feelings of idiocy.


>>>>>Awesome I say!

Because when you can notice and bring these things into your awareness, then you have the choice of what to do about it. Not noticing, being unaware, we just go on pissing off people we care about and slowly (or quickly) burning bridges...



Mike, good job and congratulations to you for noticing all this about you. And for doing so with such a small and easily overlooked trigger -- Dave just telling you he was pissed.

This is how I strive to be myself, to notice what is happening in my own head. This day you've done this in spades. It is an accomplishment of understanding yourself.

And even more, going so much further in true Mike Kelly style, why did you blog about this?? Because that is just how committed you are to being open, honest, and improving.

It is an honor and an inspiration to know you. Honestly.


>>>>>great stuff

Wow. Great. Thanks. I'm going to link to this.


>>>>>I feel like I should stand up and say...

My name is Scott and I'm an idiot. :)

Scott Barber
Chief Technologist, PerfTestPlus
Executive Director, Association for Software Testing


>>>>>So that's why you listened so well... :)

So I must have benefitted from Mike's lesson with Dave, as when I called Mike later that day he was patient, a great listener and - as ever - a wonderful friend :)

Julian Harty

>>>>>Everyone Needs Good Friends

Everyone needs good friends like Mike. I'm glad I can include Mike as one of mine. Our regular "writer's group" meetings are among the funnest things I do. It's always a good idea to hang out with people you can learn from. Thanks Mike!
I'm an idiotMichael Kelly