By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
There are basically two types of people in the world. Direct and Indirect.
Direct people, are most often found among these professional career people: fast food servers (you can’t have it your way), automobile mechanics (it’s broken and I can/can’t fix it), and doctors and dentists (you have six months to live and/or all your teeth are about to fall out).
Indirect people include: Lawyers (top of the list,) Politicians (tied with Lawyers), Civil Service employees (your license should arrive between 1 and 10 weeks!), and all Japanese people.
A good friend of mine, now deceased, used to say, “Life is short – so get on with it.” How prophetic was that! This guy had, perhaps, the most brutal interaction style of anyone I’ve ever met. Bright as hell and happy to use it to his advantage. You did not ever want to be in a meeting with him and be unprepared. He would zero in on your lack of knowledge and then pounce. And the pouncing was about as unpleasant as you could imagine.
I used to get so pissed off whenever that happened I wanted to kill him (not really!). But you know the feeling. He was correct, you were incorrect and there you were exposed in all your nakedness. You looked like an idiot and this guy would almost revel in your ignorance. This is not the way to manage people. Watch this example of a really bad direct boss (Kevin Spacy in "Swimming with Sharks").
One apocryphal story about Hillary Clinton (who in fact at that moment was Direct not Indirect) comes to mind. When she first found out about Monica Lewinsky, one secret service agent supposedly reported that she threw an ashtray across the room at Bill, narrowly missing the decapitation of a sitting American President (one can always argue whether such a result would have been good or bad).
Most often politicians have sufficient self-control to avoid ever being Direct. Why commit to any position when you can weasel word your answer and therefore never be judged at odds with some group’s position (who you might someday ask for money).
I’ve met Harvard alumnus John Kerry on several occasions at Harvard/RPI Hockey Games and can attest to his Indirect nature. RPI is probably unknown to most of you. It stands for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY, and is not only one of the best private engineering schools in the country, but has won several NCAA Division 1 Hockey championships.
On these occasions, after being introduced to Kerry (he was a sitting US Senator at the time), I was reminded of eating air. So unfulfilling as if absolutely nothing of any consequence had taken place.
As an aside about being Direct, RPI would routinely trounce Harvard in ice hockey. The Harvard crowd had a prepared cheer for those occasions - which was suitable for any of their team sports. “That’s all right, that’s okay, you’ll be working for us someday.” Obnoxious and Direct ass*oles. Here’s another great example about the Harvard mentality from "Good Will Hunting."
The Japanese People: This is a race of such incredibly polite people that if you look up the definition of “Indirect” in the dictionary you will see a photo of a Japanese person. I’ve heard they have at least 100 ways of saying no – without actually saying it. For example, “We’ve looked at your proposal – and it is very interesting” (i.e. no!). Or, “Your price demonstrates an unusual perspective on our requirements” (i.e. no!). Or, “We’ll call you to arrange a future meeting” (i.e. no!).
This politeness comes from the tradition of never “losing face.” Doing so would reflect poorly on your family and all its ancestors. If you lose face, one action is to commit Hara Kiri.
This subject raises the question brought up in this scene from "Moneyball." Brad Pitt asks Jonah Hill whether he’d rather die from being shot in the head, or stabbed repeatedly. It is a very good and succinct way of looking at my original premise – that people are either Direct or Indirect.
As for me, reflecting on my departed friend, life is short. Why belabor the point? Just get on with it!
Let’s look at this one last way. You go into a bar and attempt to make the acquaintance of the best-looking woman in there. You approach her and say, “If I told you, ‘You have a nice body,’ would you hold it against me?” I call this the “Direct” approach.
One of two things will happen in this situation: a. you get a drink thrown in your face or b. you get a telephone number. By being “Direct” you “get on with it.”
Doesn’t that make sense to you?