Let's talk about it ...

Dec 04 | 2015

The lady wife said to me: “Arguing is a complete waste of time.” 

“Oh no it’s not!” 

“Yes it is – one really never gets anywhere and it just makes people pretentious.” 

“I don’t agree with that: and anyway, are you aware that the word pretentious comes from the Latin pretender which means ‘to hold forth’?” 

“You’re just like your father!” 

So when does a discussion become an argument? Surely an argument is simply a discussion but with sound effects? Maybe! 

Of course without discussion we would not have progressed as a society and I suppose that’s why business meetings are important, but the interpretation of what the word ‘meeting’ implies varies from country to country. Having attended many of these ‘get-togethers’, during the course of my working life, the ethos of a meeting is rather interesting. For example, in the UK the purpose of a meeting is to give everyone the opportunity of having their democratic input and then the decision - which was made prior to the meeting - is put into effect. 

In Germany, the purpose of a meeting is to inform everyone about what is going to happen - nobody expects an opportunity to comment. In France, everyone gets to have the opportunity to comment, but no decision is made until lunch. In Holland, apart from anything else, it’s an opportunity to drink sour milk! 

Obviously, we are talking stereotypes here, but there is a strong degree of cultural truth in this. Take business lunches for example. The Brits have their meeting, conduct their business and then maybe go to lunch. It is absolutely and utterly bad form to mention anything to do with business during this time: I am not buying you lunch because we do business together, it’s because I really like you and enjoy your company…. 

The French naturally expect to conclude their business during lunch and the Germans do not have time for lunch. The Dutch of course are too bloated from drinking sour milk. 

Of course there is a variation on this and it’s called a debate, which I suppose is a more formalised argument. But you would never hear a manager declaring that he wants to hold a debate about a particular matter – this would imply that everyone’s opinion was equally valid and that a decision would be made according to who made the best points and concluded by a vote. Totally unacceptable! 

Parliamentary debates are always fascinating, but because of their gladiatorial quality they can neither be perceived as discussion nor argument as the final vote is normally a foregone conclusion. I think it’s worth noting that somebody (not sure who, but Mark Twain I expect – it normally is!) once said that:  the aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. I would suggest that this is well worth quoting if ever you get into an argument with a disappointed and drunken rugby player in a local pub on a Saturday night. 

On the subject of ‘discussion’, I was recently speaking to an old remover friend of mine  – most of them are these days –  we both came into the industry at about the same time and we were discussing the changes that had occurred  during those thirty odd (and sometimes very odd) years. One thing that really became apparent was just how many then well-known companies were no longer trading. We were quite amazed at the names we came up with. A lot of them were large, ostensibly well run and highly respected organisations. I know what you are thinking: well these two certainly know how to enjoy themselves. But this was not a pessimistic conversation, in fact our conclusion was that the industry was fundamentally extremely resilient, weathering numerous financial storms over the years. 

I remember it being said that in business it is important to accept that most companies, products and services have a birth, a life and often a demise. In other words it is essential to regularly review one’s business and to make sure that it is adapting to ever changing markets. We’ve seen the effects of this in the wider economy, Woolworths for example and the current supermarket wars. Speed of change is important and that is perhaps why so many large movers have disappeared over the years. I suppose it’s easier to change direction in a 7.5 tonne van then fully fledged road train.  

Anyway, it’s not particularly my brief to write about the moving industry, although this could be a topic for a whole article one day, but in the meantime I’ll leave any further discussion to you. But try not to let it turn into an argument; and by the way are you aware that the word argument comes from…?