When my brother and I would fight as children, one of us would inevitably run to my mother and complain.
“Glenn is punching me,” I would gripe.
“I don’t want to hear it,” she would reply. That was the end of the “conversation.” I knew it wouldn’t go any farther — no matter how much I whined. She wouldn’t intervene. I wouldn’t get the help I sought. As a child, I just accepted the response, or lack thereof.
Well into adulthood, I used to complain to person A about person B, almost always as an act of avoidance; I despised confrontation. So I complained to someone else instead. The problem would evaporate into the ether. Even better, people would empathize with me.
“That’s terrible. I feel for you.”
“Oh, how could you put up with that?”
“You don’t deserve that.”
Complaining felt good. But the Yiddish word “Kvetch,” captures the repercussions. “Kvetch,” to whine and complain, has its origins in the words “press,” “squeeze” and “pinch.” As soon as you start to complain about someone else, that’s when you start to press, squeeze and pinch — usually the innocent person to whom you’re complaining. Furthermore, you and the intended recipient of your complaint never get a chance to resolve the issue.
Now, I’ve finally learned the lesson my mother was trying to convey decades ago by saying “I don’t want to hear it.” When you have a problem, she was telling me with six emphatic words, go directly to that person and resolve it yourself.
In other words, “Direct communication, the vast majority of times, is more helpful for others—and ourselves—than avoidance, triangulation (going through someone else), or sugar-coating.”
That’s part of the Samurai Brotherhood 14-point code, point No. 1, titled “Make Your Word Good.” Triangulation means you communicate to person A about person B, instead of going directly to person B.
Problems abound with this go-around. Person A might distort the message. (Have you ever played telephone?) Person A might never convey the message. Or person A might tell many others the message.
Before I joined the Brotherhood, I thought triangulation related only to geometry and GPS. Now I realize it relates to friends, family, colleagues and employees — anyone I deal with. Since I’ve joined the Brotherhood, I have become more direct in both my personal and professional life. I avoid complaining to others about somebody else, and I go directly to the person.
Since I’ve joined the Brotherhood, I have become more direct in both my personal and professional life. I avoid complaining to others about somebody else, and I go directly to the person.
That’s not to say I don’t seek advice from person A about how to deal with person B; I do. As long as the end goal is to use that advice to directly address the issue with person B, getting advice is fine.
I now see the benefits of direct communication. I can resolve the issue head on, rather than vent, ignore or avoid.
Earlier this year, I had a meeting with a longtime business partner who refers business to my company. One of his colleagues tried to push me to sign a contract presented to me just minutes earlier, with clauses that would have been detrimental to my business. I, of course, directly rejected the idea. That was easy.
The hard part, which I would have avoided previously, was discussing how the incident affected the business relationship with my longtime business partner. Not anymore. I asked for a follow-up lunch, and told the business partner that the incident eroded my trust. He reassured me that such an incident would not recur; we’ve continued a great relationship. He also thanked me for my directness, saying he appreciated knowing where I stood.
Before I joined the Brotherhood, I would have avoided such directness. I thought raising an issue with another person meant confrontation. I had hated confrontation.
Now I realize that disagreement, even raising very serious issues with another person, isn’t “confrontation” at all. We can disagree amicably, sometimes not. But we can disagree directly with each other, with no go-between. That’s how problems get resolved.
Talk directly to the intended recipient. And don’t kvetch to me. I don’t want to hear it.