My education and training in social psychology taught me to be precise. For example, when reporting research results, it is essential to include the level of statistical significance so that other researchers know the strength of the research finding, as well as whether it can be generalized to other situations. My training also relates to the way I perceive the world, including how I view the passage of time. If I am supposed to arrive someplace at 7:00 p.m., I arrive at 7:00 p.m. My friends and family often remark that I am extremely punctual, to which I reply that I have been able to “tell time” since I was about 3 years old! Further, if the appointment was to have been for a time other than 7:00, they should have told me! My speaking style is also both precise and direct. Few people have wondered what I “really meant” by something I said. There is a song by Jimmy Buffett, titled “Clichés” that includes the line, “Say what you mean, mean what you say.” Many people’s lack of precision makes life complicated for those around them, with time wasted on wondering what was meant by a particular action or comment; what time will the habitually tardy person finally arrive; and many other activities that, in my opinion, are unnecessary. Just as some people are rhythmically challenged and unable to clap their hands or dance to the beat, an overall absence of precision makes them out of sync with others and with the world at large. With many thanks to Jimmy Buffett’s great song writing abilities, “say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Melissa’s precision is well beyond that required of her as a social scientist. But, it is clearly strong in her rigor of both research design and the analysis of the findings. It is those things that make her a well regarded trial consultant. It is, however, more due to her personality as she clearly explains. And, it is one of the areas where we differ to some degree, more sometimes than others. If she decides to leave the office at a certain time, she almost always does. If she doesn’t, it is because a client has called, or I have, or an employee has delayed her somehow. I am more “loose” in my accounting of time, for example. I “roll with it” more than she does in that I find some tasks defy precision. I don’t know how long it will take for a computer to finish a batch process, for example. In other areas, precision does not seem worth it to me. I will never forget going out to dinner with a group of Melissa’s psychologist colleagues. One of them insisted on calculating, to the penny, what each person owed for dinner, neatly dividing up the shared items (like wine), again, to the penny, and all without using a calculator. This took some amount of time and a little discussion and it was, of course, precise. But, to me, it was not worth the effort, rounding the numbers would have been fine with me, and I suspect, the waiter. I believe there is a time for this type of precision and will utilize it as demanded by the situation. Hopefully Jimmy Buffett will understand.