No Discord at Work – Lessons from Jerry

The show Seinfeld was known to be a reasonably harmonious set, a ‘lack of discord’.  When Jerry Seinfeld was asked a few weeks ago why he thought that was the case by life-maximiser Tim Ferriss on his podcast , he gave an answer that was startling in its simplicity:

Tim: To what would you attribute that lack of discord?

Jerry: I don’t like discord.

You probably don’t like it either, right?  But what do you actually do?

Jerry continued:

Jerry: I don’t like it, and I am fearless in rooting it out and solving it.  And if anyone’s having a problem, I’m going to walk right up to them and go “Is there a problem?  Let’s talk about this”.  Because I cannot stand that kind of turmoil.

Let’s pause for a second.  You don’t like discord either right?  But look closely at the last line above.  “I cannot stand that kind of turmoil”. 

Now consider again your own workplace and you in it.  I’ll bet the evidence suggests that you can stand that kind of turmoil.  That it frustrates you, you have probably invested time and money in trying to make it go away…but it’s still there. 

And you’re still there too…because you can stand it.  Somewhere inside, you’ve decided that you have bigger fish to fry…so we let it go for another day.

Let’s break down Jerry’s sentence:

I’m going to walk right up to them”. 

He didn’t say he would schedule a meeting in the next calendar spot where both of you happen to be free, which in the life of a CEO and an Executive is going to be three weeks away minimum.  He’s going to “walk right up to them and go…”.

Is there a problem?” 

Directly asks the question that he wants to know the answer to.   Doesn’t disrespect the person by pretending the conversation is about something else then trick them by springing the real issue onto them. (BTW, even if the answer is no, the next sentence works fine!).

And now the key:

Let’s talk about this”. 

A direct invitation to have a conversation.  As he had mentioned earlier, to root out the problem and talk about it.

Jerry’s from New York, where this level of directness is normal.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking the words don’t work because you’re perhaps from a non-confrontational work culture like Australia.   You just change the tone, so you don’t sound as clipped as Jerry.  A bit more of a furrowed brow and tilted head instead of a direct confrontational stare. A smile even.

But you still say the words.

So simple – “Is there a problem, let’s talk about this”.

And now have an actual conversation.  Sort it out.  Together.  Get to the bottom of it.

It’s the only way forward.

Unless, of course, you like discord.

Now, over to you…

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