As I dropped my car at the garage, I told the mechanic, "I think my muffler is broken." Later that day when I picked up my car, the mechanic informed me there was nothing wrong with the muffler. After paying his bill and starting my car… the darn noise that began the auto repair visit remained. I asked the mechanic about it. He said, "You asked me to check the muffler."
Just shoot me! I left the car for another day and made additional transportation arrangements.
Yesterday, my wife told the refrigerator repair man, "I think the gasket needs to be replaced because the refrigerator door doesn't stay shut." He was better than my car mechanic. After a quick visual, he informed, "It is worn but is working. Your hinge isn't set right." $125 later we had a hinge adjustment. Only problem is the refrigerator isn't cooling. We thought it was the door being ajar.
The folly of self-diagnosis is real. Unless you are an expert on something, don't do the diagnosis. Speak in terms of the problem, not the solution.
A friend of mine, Chris, is a brain and spinal cord surgeon. If I'm
having a headache, do I tell Chris, "I think my cerebral cortex is
swelling. You need to check for a tumor." Absurd! But we all do this kind of self diagnosis regularly. My goal is to get out of the habit.
Consider your area of expertise. When you're working with customers or
clients who don't know what you know, do you find it odd when they
start telling you how to do the job they hired you to do? Why did they come to you in the first place?
Here at On-Purpose Partners, we help individuals and organizations write their core strategic statements of purpose, vision, mission, and values so they have a fighting chance to be on-purpose. Some people want to debate our terminology and approach. I always invite clients to read my books before they engage us to ensure they understand where we're coming from before they invest their hard earned money working with us.
Often, it doesn't matter. They argue. We're delighted to clarify and explain the difference between purpose, vision, mission, and values, but why debate it with us after you've hired us. We're pros at this. Let us do the diagnosis. Tell us your problems. Let us practice our craft.
Candidly, pride is why we're all guilty of self-diagnosis. I don't want to look stupid in front of my mechanic because I'm a guy. I'm supposed to understand cars and engines and mechanical things. Right? Wrong. I'm clueless. Faking it to impress the grease monkey tells him I'm both stupid and a phony.
These days, I tell my mechanic, "My car is making a weird and loud noise. I haven't got a clue what it is." Instead of faking my way to repeated repair visits, today I confess my ignorance, find the most honest mechanic I can, and throw myself at his mercy with an open line of credit. My favorite question, "If it were your wife and kids driving in the car, would you do the repair?" My automotive bills are high, our cars run fine, I have fewer visits, and I have no pretense.
About twenty years ago we had a father and son living next door who worked on their own cars. I observed to Judith one day, "Every weekend they're working on their cars to get them working. I don't even crack the hood of my car and it runs fine." What's the moral there? Those who do… who don't know they don't know.. do more of what they don't know.
Let's call it personal outsourcing. Judith is calling the refrigerator repair guy back today to say, "My refrigerator isn't as cold as I think it should be." It will probably be another $125 or more. The compressor is probably shot! Oops! Did I just do a self-diagnosis?
Do you have a story where self-diagnosis got you in trouble? Share it in the comments so we can all learn and laugh.