It Depends. Or Does it? Yes. Unless…


We talk about the dreaded, and yet, accurate phrase. When to use it and what comes after…


Matthew: Yeah, even if we were being evil, it's not anybody could stop us. Well, is there any topic you'd like to tackle today?

Matt: Good question.

Matthew: Thank you.

Matt: Great questions.

Matthew: That's why they pay me the big bucks.

Matt: My jaw is slack because-- this is not what we talked about yesterday, as far as, something--

Matthew: Oh, I see.

Matt: Like, do I wanna open this can of worms. Like this, this fits more into like a, like a pet peeve, communication thing, like almost like the sports analogy conversation.

Matthew: Oh, I've got one of those, but go ahead.

Matt: Like do we wanna open up this can of worms. It's something we're both guilty of too.

Matthew: Okay.

Matt: I actually saw something on LinkedIn about it.

Matthew: Okay, well I don't do it, but go ahead.

Matt: Yes you do So it comes down to the "it depends." And why, even though I say it sometimes, it bothers me as a, as like an escape hatch for, I'll say specifically around designers, researchers, when they can't make a decision and they say "it depends." I guess it's more about not just saying "it depends," I believe we've talked about this before, but it's what they say after that.

Matthew: Yeah, absolutely.

Matt: Like the thing that drives me nuts is the "it depends" mic drop, walk out of a meeting, versus the "it depends," hey let's go find out and I'll get you an answer, which I don't hear nearly enough or at all. And so I saw someone mention it on a LinkedIn post that it's something they do and they're proud of

Matthew: Of the mic drop.

Matt: No, they didn't talk about the mic drop, but just the "it depends" without any other context around it.

Matthew: Oh, okay, they shouldn't be proud of that, but go ahead.

Matt: Right, that's kinda my point, and I know you and I've done it, even I think as recently as yesterday about something, where we, I can't remember what we were talking about, oh, well it depends. Oh, it was about the titles and something--

Matthew: Yeah, okay.

Matt: Our conversation we had.

Matthew: Right, right, right, right, yeah, yeah.

Matt: Anyways, that was the topic, 'cause it's, I just read this, and it's always on my mind, I think I wrote a blog post about this years ago, like, don't just say "it depends," it's "let's find out" or "let's get an answer." I can't answer it right now, which goes along with my, my other point of contention, is the, being afraid to say "I don't know." Where people are asked a question, let's say a researcher or designer, and instead of saying, hey, well could you give me a moment or give me a week or whatever, I'll go find out the answer, but they just make something up because they're uncomfortable with not having an answer. And this happens, I've seen it happen in a meeting room, like with executives or whoever happens to be in the room, all the way to, we were talking earlier about presenting at conferences, or not even conferences but local meetups, and there's a Q & A and--

Matthew: Yeah.

Matt: And the person on stage feels pressure to come up with an answer to a question from the audience. I've been in that situation, and I've-- yeah, it sometimes is a little uncomfortable, but I don't think there's a harm in saying, you know, that's a good question, I don't have an answer, let's meet afterwards and talk more about it and let's put our heads together. Or when you're in a meeting room say, that's a really good question but-- and have it really be a really good question, should be something you should know the answer to. I guess that's a different--

Matthew: What's your name? That's a really good question. Get back to you in a week.

Matt: Right, right, right. We're gonna do some research, talk to my grandparents. But yeah, this apprehension, this uncomfortable feeling, it drives me crazy sometimes, because people just throw out some crazy garbage, that you know they know is BS, and they're gonna be held accountable, and you see the noose going right around their neck. Like, you really wanna sign your name to this? Why don't you take a breath and think it through.

Matthew: Well, I know that you don't like it when I get meta, but I'm gonna get meta for just a second.

Matt: Alright.

Matthew: Just to set some context. I think the phrase "it depends," when you say it, "it depends," not when you say "it depends," but it depends on when you say "it depends" what your subtext is. And to your point, if someone says "it depends" and mic drops or becomes intransigent about giving any further information, that is a serious problem. I say "it depends," I feel like it's been a very long time where it's been a mic drop. I think yesterday when we were talking about titles and we came up with it depends, I think neither one of us really wanted to get into that. So it was more of a, "it depends," yes it does depend, alright, let's drop it and move on, you know.

Matt: Agreed, yeah, I was in, yeah.

Matthew: Which, no I think that's a good example of, there are times where it's like, it depends, that's not as important right now, and by saying "it depends," you're sort of, it's shorthand for let's put a pin in that or something like that. I think that's okay, if you have a good communication relationship with the people who it's coming up with. I think if you say "it depends" and don't follow it up with "let's go find out" or "I need more information before I can answer," you're doing a disservice to yourself, to the people you're working with, to the people who come after you, someone else is gonna come along later and you're setting expectations for them, and they're not good expectations. I think Jared wrote something a little while ago. I saw it on LinkedIn, it was one of those things where I read the title and was like, yep, I got it, move on. It was basically don't say "it depends." I think it was more like don't even use that word, but really what the gist he was getting at was you've got to be willing to go find out, right, or make space to find out. And that's perfectly valid. I don't think it's, for me, something that I have to remove it depends from my lexicon, but I think it's, I have to say it, and then say, "and here are the things "that it depends upon."

Matt: Right. That's the same thing, it's getting that next step, it's not the mic drop.

Matthew: And then to your point about being willing to say I don't know. I ran headfirst into that in 2009. The first time I gave my Simpsons talk. There was a question, I don't even remember what it was, but I was trying to answer the question really hard and I didn't know the answer. And it wasn't even an "it depends" kind of of thing, it was like-- and halfway through I was like, holy crap, I'm doing it, what do I do? Just stop talking, just stop talking, please stop talking! And I didn't stop talking, it was terrible. And it really colored the whole talk for me, to the point where I didn't feel comfortable giving talks for another seven years, like that talk went so poorly in my mind. That is where I learned, like deep down to my core, it is so much better to just say, I don't know, but I'll go find out.

Matt: It's an honest answer.

Matthew: I don't know, and let's go find out. Or I don't know, let's talk about it after the talk, or whatever.

Matt: What I've learned to do, or try to do, and I think I've been pretty successful, is like I'm thinking about a meeting context with a client or a coworker type of thing. Write it down, say that's a question, let me write that down, I'll have to get back to you. That way they see I'm noting it, like it's not just a brush off, and it's, you know, maintaining accountability but not having to put myself on the spot and make up something that I might stick with, you know, going forward. Anywho.

Matthew: Yeah, I think it's definitely worth everybody, regardless of what their job is, is having that willingness to be open and-- I feel like someone is more an expert when they say they don't know and have the ability to get the answer, rather than if they have the answer in the moment. And certainly we should know our stuff, but I think because of that contextuality of a lot of the stuff that we do, because it does depend, we can't have the answers to every single thread that might come out of an action or a choice or whatever.

Matt: Though I will say--

Matt: Ultimately, that's what the research is for, that's why we do the research.

Matt: And I'm thinking about some times where I like, I spoke at a conference or something and there was a question from the audience, and I did know the answer, that feels really good. So.

Matthew: Do you stop and you're like, yes, I know this one.

Matt: Right, exactly, thank god. There is something nice about that feeling, I will not deny that.

Matthew: The next time I do a talk, if that comes up, I'll be like, yes, I know the answer to this one, right into the mic.

Matt: Right, right, thank god. And you're not a plant.

Matthew: It's definitely worth more people considering that, especially people in our line of work I think. I think that's a really good topic to talk about, so thanks for bringing it up.

Matt: We should talk about that some time.

Matthew: About what? The thing we just talked about.

Matt: Let's add that to the list.

Matthew: That part's going in. Yeah I love, I think pet peeves are certainly welcome on the show.

Matt: Our point about making this a positive thing, I just don't wanna make it all-- we both have a lot of opinions about stuff So it's an easy well to pull from. That's why I was hesitant, it was just top of mind, so.

Matthew: Well I, the positive thing is, it's better to say I don't know.

Matt: Right.

Matthew: In the short term and the long term, it is better to say I don't know, let's go find out. There's your positivity.

Matt: Alright, fair enough. Starburst rainbow.

Matthew: Star wipe.

Matt: Star wipe The more you know, pling.

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