Friday, March 18, 2011

You being easy makes my life hard

Let me reprise a conversation that I have frustratingly often. See if it sounds familiar:
Shylock: So, where do you want to go for dinner?
Friend: I dunno. I'm easy.
Now, what's frustrating about this is that "I'm easy" is typically said in the tone that implies that their lack of preference is making your life simpler, because they're not placing any restrictions on possible places to eat.

In reality, saying "I'm easy" is almost never making the person's life simpler. You know why?

Because the problem is very rarely that the person has a list of 50 restaurants in mind, and is trying to optimise over both your preferences (in which case, you having no preferences would actually simplify the matter).

Instead, the problem is almost always that the person asking is short of ideas on possible places to go. That's why they're asking. In which case you being 'easy' is not helping matters at all.

Here's the subtext of what is actually being asked and replied.
Shylock: [I am feeling uncreative in thinking of possible restaurants we could eat at. Rather than admit to this directly, I will pose the question as trying to elicit your preferences over general food types or specific restaurants. Will you help me by generating some suggestions?]
Friend: [No, I too am feeling lazy, and so shall pretend that you're trying to solve a different problem and offer you no help. Moreover, I shall do this in a tone that suggests you should be grateful for my lack of help]
When looked at in this light, part of he blame lies with the initial questioner for not phrasing the question in a way that makes it clearer exactly which problem is trying to be solved (i.e. "What tastes do you crave" vs. "Help me generate suggestions")

So, if someone asks you this, let me suggest a much better response:
Friend: If  you have a place in mind and it would make the process simpler for me to be of few wishes, I can eat anywhere . On the other hand, if you don't have anywhere in mind and it would help for me to generate suggestions, I can do that too.
Trust me, your friends will thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment