“Management By Blurt”

I’m always developing personal theories to explain the world as I experience it.  One of my latest is the concept of “Management By Blurt”.

What I mean by this is that I’ve increasingly noticed how many people have a very human tendency to “blurt” out an answer when questioned or pressed on an issue, whether our answer is right, wrong or a complete line of bullshit, just so we won’t look stupid or embarrassed in front of the person asking the question.

(Of course, in the moment, we don’t consider how we look if the person realises we’re “blurting” or if they later discover our answer was one we blurted out without proper thought and consideration or taking the time to find the real answer.)

Here’s a hypothetical example…

Say that my library has a lack of clarity around a policy relating to some aspects of how patrons borrow books.  If a staff member asks me for clarification and I definitively blurt out “Well, what you need to do is…” even if I’m not sure myself because it’s a rare situation or relates to a policy that’s recently changed or different managers have given conflicting messages (possibly also due to “Management by Blurt”), I’m not helping anyone.

Fortunately, there’s a couple really solutions to “Management by Blurt”.

One is simply to be aware of the tendency that many people have to use this technique and to be skeptical of answers you’re given by known-blurters.

Beyond that, if you’re the one who realises you’re about to blurt an answer, a better response is “I’m not sure about that. Let me find out and get back to you.”  The Internet age makes us feel otherwise (and frankly, is a big contributor to the problem in my eyes) but no one will hold it against you if you don’t always have the immediate, perfect answer on the tip of your tongue.

If you’re the person being blurted at (and you realise it in the moment), you can ask a follow-up question to ensure that you have the right information – “Can you tell me where I can find that policy so I can review it myself?” or even, depending on the circumstance, gently call out the person who is blurting: “Are you sure about that?  Because last month, I’m sure you said that we should do it a different way and now I think you’re saying to do it the exact opposite way?”

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