Consider the Source

October 2, 2015

Your reputation in radiology impacts whether people are willing to listen to you or not.

“Consider the source.” Likely as not, you’ve heard the phrase, perhaps coupled with a derisive snort. It tends to be used for the casting of aspersions upon someone whose statement’s sincerity, impartiality, or wisdom is to be doubted. An embittered former employee or colleague. A competitor. A troll, cloaked in Internet anonymity on a public forum.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in the opposite, yet equally-valid context: Instead of “Why would you take this fool’s remarks seriously?” rather meaning “Listen to what this guy is saying-he should know.” Is it because cynicism comes more naturally to people? We’re more interested in taking folks down a peg than boosting them?

There certainly seem to be plenty more targets for the usual dismissal tone-people with axes to grind, impactful personality flaws, or poor track records. It’s for that reason I’ve tried to go out of my way to identify and remember the exceptions, and do whatever I can to make sure that they know I’ve got their number (in a good way).

If I’m trying to run an imaging center or radiology department, or even just my own small bailiwick within one, I’ve got a host of things demanding my attention-issues constantly presenting themselves for consideration. They can’t (and shouldn’t) all merit action from me. Whether a given item does or does not is therefore going to be a very frequent decision I have to make, and I’m going to want every advantage I can get to make the right choice as often as possible.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"41932","attributes":{"alt":"Eric Postal, MD","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3035446163156","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"4492","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"float: right;","title":"Eric Postal, MD","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

A very nice, big clue I’d be foolish to avoid: Considering the source. That is, who’s telling me there’s a problem that needs solving?

If the source is a chronic complainer about petty or unavoidable things, the sort liable to show up for work griping that the sky was slightly the wrong shade of blue this morning…if he’s unproductive, error-prone, or otherwise noncontributory…I’m going to need more convincing. Besides, I’m probably on his list of complaints already, and even if I did take on his current cause, I’d stand an excellent chance of his finding fault with however I addressed it.

But if it’s someone who rarely speaks up unless she’s got something valuable to say…one of the hardest workers in the place…a particularly bright individual…again, I’d be foolish not to give her that much more of my attention and consideration. Even if her issue turns out to be a big nothing, better to encourage that smart, hardworking, capable individual that her input is not merely welcomed, but sought after.

It’s a two-way street. The source which is being considered can just as well be someone higher up the chain of command. If, for instance, I am buttonholed by a micromanaging, nitpicky higher-up who wastes no opportunity to tell me how I should be doing my job, I’m a lot more likely to robotically “Yes” him to death than I am if approached by the respected guru who’s my section-head and has a pointer about how I’m reporting my CTAs.

And on this two-way street, to stretch the analogy further, we’re all drivers, being considered in turn by those around us. Yes, you’re a “source” too, and it’s not a bad idea to think about how you’re coming across once in awhile.