When I was in grad school years ago, Dr. Robert Nash was the primary instructor for ethics. I heard horror stories from other students. The general consensus seemed to be, Nash likes to inflict pain, so avoid this elective. I enrolled anyway and it’s one of the best courses I’ve ever taken, from one of the best teachers (I’m told Dr. Nash still teaches ethics, though rumor has it he’s a kinder and gentler Robert these days). I’m a better person for his tutelage.
It’s my favorite reminder about the failings of decisions based on indirect information. Robert Nash returned to my thoughts recently, when in the period of just a few days, two of my conflict management coaching clients described the same “aha” moment about conflict with their own clients.
In both situations, there was a primary person with whom there was difficulty and a secondary person through whom a great deal of information was funneled. In both instances, my clients were receiving worrisome information from the secondary player about how the primary player felt and thought about the situation. And in both, my clients made the smart decision to go around the self-appointed gate keeper and speak directly with the primary player. The conversations surprised them.
Girded for battle, they instead found the conversations quite benign. Prepared for difficulty, they discovered the primary player to be quite reasonable and willing to listen. In short, they discovered that the secondary player had made matters more difficult with their “insider” advice and counsel. Just like my grad school peers, steering others away from Dr. Nash.
It’s better to find out for yourself. The more players, the more confusion, the more complexity, and maybe the more negativity. If those other players don’t have 20/20, you’ll be led astray.