Friday, March 7, 2014

"Credibility By Proxy"


Part of a Dad’s job is to pass along helpful insights and observations to their children, advisatorial “life-lesson” nuggets culled from years of experience such as:

“You can pick your friends.  You can pick your nose.  But you can’t pick your friend’s nose”, though, hopefully, a little less disgusting.

Two other “WOW’s” – “WOW” being an acronym for “Words of Wisdom”, because when you here them – or possibly some time down the line – you drop your jaw in a gesture of amazement at your amazing understanding of the way things are and go,

“WOW!”

As in,

“I have some smart father!”

Two “WOWS” come to mind at the moment, both of which, unlike the aforementioned indisputable advice concerning nasal intervention, are, I am ready to concede, open to dispute. 

The first one is, “Sarcasm is the dialect of losers.”  (Check it out.  The purveyor of the causticity – do they have any actual power?)

The second “WOW” – and I referred to it not long ago in a post:

“It’s not just ‘what’, it’s ‘how.’”

Remember when I said that?  I don’t.  I just remember it happened, and that I was happy about it, because I have always meant to pass that “WOW” along to you, as I consider you too in a way to be my …no I don’t. 

What I am emphatically suggesting here is that what you do – an action you take, for example –is important.  But equally, and on occasion, even more important is the method you employ undertaking that action. 

I am thinking about a certain revolution whose execution was handled so destructively that the “what” of that revolution remains forever tarnished by the “how” of its implementation.  That may apply to all revolutions, now that I think of it.  What they got needed to be gotten.  But to quote a line an emotionally abused brother said to his abuser/slash/benefactor older sibling in Mr. Saturday Night:

“You could have been nicer.”

The “what” may be beneficially achieved.  But some people at least have not entirely forgiven the “how.”

So that’s my view.  And that and fifty cents will get you a “Senior Ticket” on the Santa Monica bus line. 

Why do I evaluate my pronouncements so negligibly?  Because the message has been communicated and received – and I bear the emotional scarring to prove it – that, with the exception of half-hour sitcom writing, I am unqualified to speak authoritatively about anything.

Somehow, this dismissal of my opinions due to lack of credentials annoys me.  And it apparently always has.

More than forty years ago, I wrote and performed a short sketch on CBC (“Canadian Broadcasting Corporation”) radio where I played two parts:  a CBC
Interviewer, and his guest on the program – a man who knew where fish go in the winter. 

After the introductions, the interview got right down to business.

“What universities did you study at where you learned where fish go in the winter?”

“I didn’t study at any university.”

“What specific research did you do on the subject?”

“I didn’t do any research.”

“Well which experts did you consult with?”

“I didn’t consult anybody.  I just know where fish go in the winter.”

And just as he was about to reveal where that was, the CBC interviewer abruptly announced that the interview was over, offering first, an apology to his audience, followed by this explanation:

“We cannot continue this conversation because, though our guest may well know where fish go in the winter, he is not qualified to know.  Thank you, and good night.”

That’s what I wrote in the early ‘70’s, demonstrating that the issue has been sticking in my craw for numerous decades.  The sketch encapsulated the problem in a nutshell:  The interviewee’s “what” may have been accurate by every standard of scientific certainty.  But his “how” – the way he arrived at that conclusion – invalidated his credibility.  

An unacceptable “how” can debilitate in various ways.  It can detract from your ultimate achievement.  Or it can deny you a seat at the table.  Ergo, and in conclusion: 

Pay attention to the “how.”

Just my view, and maybe my view only, thought I.  And I was happily willing to live with that.

And then…

In the recent “Sunday Review” section of the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni argues, in a piece about Pope Francis that, though the Pope has, to date, made no radical pronouncements, through his symbolic actions and his statements involving a realigned emphasis on the poor and the questioning of his right to judge others:

“He {the Pope} understands that tone trumps content – that it’s everything, really.”

Well I don’t know about “everything.”  Still, it’s nice to see the “how” getting legitimate attention.

It’s in the Times.

People will listen.

1 comment:

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