Slow Turners (Issue 768)

In which we are reminded that some people need more time to decide, and we should engage with others while they do.  

I couldn’t see who it was, at first. Somebody several cars ahead of me on the two lane road I drive to go to the bank. Of course, I’d left things to the last minute – documents to be notarized, a deposit account to open – and we were burning precious daylight waiting for this guy… whoever he or she was… to make the left turn.

“MAKE THE TURN ALREADY,” screamed the uncharitable voice in my head. I inched forward a bit, closer the rear bumper of the car in front of me. “WHAT IS THE S T O R Y ? MAKE THE TURN!!!!!

One car passed. Open space. Two cars passed. Open space. More cars. More open spaces. I pounded my steering wheel a couple of times in frustration. And then more cars and open spaces after that.

Finally, when the space between oncoming cars stretched to what seemed like battle ship length…. forty of us could have turned left in that space… he turned into a shopping plaza on the left.

As I accelerated to drive past the plaza, I looked, incredulously, out my window at him.

“What’s wrong with you, buddy?” Again my uncharitable (and still internal) voice:

I could see he was an older man, probably in his eighties, bent forward a bit toward his steering wheel, chin forward, grasping the wheel with both hands, peering ahead as if to see through dense fog.

“If you can’t see or you can’t drive the thing, pal, stay home!” A final (thankfully internal) parting shot.

Two miles down the road, as I pulled into the bank parking lot, I thought, “You know, he was doing his best, he was being careful, and his reaction times are slower than yours, Mr. Needs to Get to the Bank So Fast.” I sighed….

Each of us operates as best we can, evaluating the risks we face, whether evaluating spaces between oncoming cars or facing oncoming challenges in our businesses. Just as some drivers on the road need more time to make decisions, so do some clients. They need to sit on decisions, even simple ones, for what seems an interminable time, while the goal-driven voices in our heads scream for them to make decisions and move on so we can close our sales and earn our commissions. “If YOU can’t decide, who ELSE can I talk to?”

Just as laying on the horn behind the slow-turning driver this morning would have done little to speed him up, and might have prompted him to turn at the wrong time, so harassing slow deciders with repeated and increasingly impatient emails and phone calls does little but irritate them and, possibly, prompt them to turn away from us.

Maybe there are things we can do to help them decide faster or turn sooner, and we should do those. But, once we’ve beeped at them once or twice, there is naught to do but wait as they decide: Patience with presence. Go find another prospect or client to pursue, in the meanwhile.

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